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ON THIS DAY: The Waco Siege began

Carmen Guzman
Today, a chapel and museum stands on the site of the Branch Davidian Compound, which was demolished by the ATF shortly after the raid.

On Feb. 28, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms executed a search warrant on the Mount Carmel
Center ranch in Waco, which housed the Branch Davidian religious cult. They had arrest warrants for the cult’s leader, David Koresh, and a few of his followers on illegal weapons charges.

Due to internal leaks, Koresh caught wind of the upcoming raid. When the ATF attempted to storm the compound, they were met with gunfire. The ensuing chaos resulted in the deaths of four ATF agents and six Branch Davidians that day.

A 51-day standoff between the Branch Davidians and ATF ensued. This concluded when a fire of un- known origin erupted at the com- pound, taking the lives of 126 cult members, including 46 children.

Cults that have operated in Texas

The Branch Davidians aren’t the only cult to have been active in the Lone Star State. Texas has a long track record of religious extremist groups operating within its borders.

The Church of Wells

A trio of former Baylor students founded this fundamentalist Christian church in Wells in 2011. eir known crimes include trespassing, disrupting other church services and the delayed reporting of a 3-day-old infant’s death.

One incident that led the church to be classified as a cult is Catherine Grove’s disappearance in July 2013. She resurfaced weeks later at the church, stating she was there of her own volition seeking guidance. This event followed a pattern of accounts accusing the cult of kidnapping and human tracking.

One of these accounts includes Jordan Reichenberger, an Austin street preacher who claimed to have
been drugged and kidnapped by the cult on Halloween night of 2016.

Conscious Development of Mind, Body and Soul

This cult was led by Terri Hoffman, who claimed she could communicate with the dead and taught her followers that death wasn’t something to be feared. Between the early ‘70s and late ‘80s, 10 people connected to the cult died under mysterious circumstances, a few of whom had leased their assets to Hoffman before their passing.

Hoffman used these deaths to reinforce the idea that the cult was fighting a spiritual war against entities known as the “black lords”. The final death occurred in 1989, and despite a criminal investigation the following year, Hoffman never got a murder conviction and has only ever been charged with bankruptcy fraud.

The Children of God

This Christian movement started in the late ’60s by David Berg, a former pastor. By the end of 1969, they’d established a colony near a ghost town called Thurber, whose citizens they recruited by distributing pamphlets on the streets.

Its members have been accused and investigated numerous times for sexual abuse, assault and incest. In 2005, Ricky Rodgriguez murdered one of his nannies from the cult, Angela M. Smith, for sexually abusing him as a child.

Heavens Gate

This cult’s followers believed their physical forms were temporary and that upon death their souls would ascend to extraterrestrial “next level” bodies.

Often described as a UFO religion, the cult is often associated with California but its roots stretch back all the way back to Texas in 1972, when a recently unemployed Marshall Applewhite met nurse Bonnie Nettles in a mental hospital.

The two discussed philosophy, spirituality and religion. They would soon begin recruiting followers in Houston by founding the Christian Arts Center, and from there embarked on a long and arduous journey that concluded tragically in San Diego. In 1997, 39 members of the cult committed a mass suicide.

The LeBaron Family

In 1988, six members of this Morman polygamist cult organized the 4 O’clock Murders, taking the lives of four former members, including an 8-year-old child, throughout the state. The cult is believed to be responsible for at least 25 deaths stretching from Mexico to Utah.

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About the Contributors
Mattheau Faught
Mattheau Faught, Presentation Editor
Carmen Guzman
Carmen Guzman, Editor in Chief

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