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Every scandal begins with a lie. But the truth will come out. And then comes the fallout and the outrage.
Scandals have shaped America since its founding. From business and politics to sports and society, we look on aghast as corruption, deceit and ambition bring down heroes and celebrities, politicians and moguls. And when the dust finally settles, we’re left to wonder: how did this happen? Where did they trip up, and who is to blame? From the creators of American History Tellers, Business Wars and Tides of History comes American Scandal, where we take you deep into the heart of America’s dark side to look at what drives someone to break the rules and what happens when they’re caught. Hosted by Lindsay Graham.
Sat, 04 Jun 2022 11:53
In 1993, a massive conflict erupts in rural Texas. The federal government launches a siege against the Branch Davidians, a religious group based in the outskirts of Waco. What follows is the longest firefight in the history of American law enforcement. And it’s a battle that ends in tragedy. But the standoff has its genesis years before. It’s then that Vernon Howell comes looking for a new religious community to call home. He finds it with the Branch Davidians, and soon, he begins working to seize power.
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To listen to American scandal one week early and add free, join Wondry Plus in the Wondry app. Download the Wondry app in your Apple or Google Play mobile app store today. This is a special encore presentation of our series on the standoff in Waco, Texas, which originally aired in 2020. It's an investigation of a shocking story that sparked a national debate about religious freedom and the power of the federal government. We hope you enjoy. A listener note, this episode contains references to adult content and language and contains material that some might find offensive. It's the morning of February 28, 1993. Outside Waco, Texas, the sleek pickup truck pulls into a dirt lot. The truck door opens and a man steps out into the cold morning air. A wind whistles lightly and rustles the grass along a prairie. The man's name is Robert Rodriguez. He's 42 with thick, dark hair and a linebacker's physique. He cuts the truck's engine, and gazes at an unassuming cluster of wooden buildings known as Mount Carmel Center. Rodriguez knows far more about Mount Carmel than he cares to. He's met many of the men, women, and children who live here. People members of a religious cult called the Branch Dividians. There are more than 100 strong and the group is led by a man named David Kuresh. Rodriguez knows that Kuresh is a high school dropout, whose given name is Vernon Howell. But here at Mount Carmel, Kuresh is something much more, much bigger. His followers believe that he is the Messiah. As he tells him, he is the new embodiment of Christ here on earth to bring about the end of days. Rodriguez gets out of his truck and walks toward the compound. He hates visiting this place, but he's careful to keep a smile on his broad face. He can't allow anything to reveal his true feelings or his real job. Rodriguez is an undercover agent with the ATF, the federal bureau of alcohol, tobacco, and firearms. And he knows there are buildings full of guns at Mount Carmel. About a month ago, Rodriguez and other ATF agents moved into a house just down the road. They've been posing as students at a local technical school and inventing reasons to visit the neighbors. Kuresh always seems glad to have them. He even told Rodriguez he could move in. Rodriguez shunners. This is just an alone made of skin crawl. But with any luck, today will be the last time he ever has to visit this place. Already, a mile-long convoy of ATF and National Guard troops is on its way from nearby Fort Hood. He's armed for a full-scale assault and prepared to take Kuresh into custody. So today, Rodriguez has one last crucial task. Take a final look around Mount Carmel. If he doesn't see anything that's out of the ordinary, the raid is on. Rodriguez knocks on the door of one of the buildings. He exhales sharply trying to steady himself. The door opens. Kuresh himself stands in the doorway. He's thin with curly dark hair and wire-framed glasses. He beams when he sees Rodriguez. Robert, great to see you. Hi, David. Brought you a copy of that paper. Made the front page again. More lies, I'm sure. Kuresh takes the newspaper. Thanks, Robert. Come on in. Rodriguez enters and the two take their seats next to each other. Rodriguez gets ready for what's sure to be another rambling speech about the Bible. But then they're interrupted. One of Kuresh's followers bursts through the door. He spots Rodriguez and then hurries into a back room. A moment later, he calls out to David, saying he's got a phone call. Kuresh frowns. Be right there. Sorry, Robert. Just give me a sec. Kuresh gets up and leaves the room. He's only gone a couple of minutes. But when he walks back in, his entire demeanor has changed. He's visibly shaking. And Rodriguez has only one thought. Kuresh has been tipped off. He knows the raid is coming. Kuresh locks eyes on him. They'll never get me, Robert. Rodriguez tries to keep his expression blank. Get you. What do you mean? Kuresh moves to the window, opens the blinds. You know what I mean. We know they're coming. Rodriguez is frozen to his seat. But he knows he has to keep his cover. Sorry. Who's coming? It's up to you now, Robert. Good luck. Rodriguez stands up. He needs to get out of here and fast. OK, David. I've got to get back to the house. Guys are cooking breakfast, so. Rodriguez walks back towards his truck as calmly as he can. He's shaking, but trying not to show it. He's sure he's about to be shot in the back. And a thought screened through his head. He knows. Kuresh knows about the raid. Rodriguez has to hurry and warn the others. They're walking straight into a foreign obsessed. American scandal is sponsored by the new audiobook, Killing the Legends, the 12th audiobook and the multi-million-selling Killing series from Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard. Elvis Presley, John Lennon, and Muhammad Ali, three icons known everywhere in every nation across every culture. They had everything. Fame, money, the admiration of millions, but their lives spun out of control at the hands of those they most trusted. Killing the Legends explores the lives, legacies, and tragic deaths of these three legends. Each experienced a men's success, then failures that forced them to change. Each faced the challenge of growing old and fields that privileged youth. And finally, each became isolated, cocooned by wealth, but vulnerable to the demands of those in their innermost circles. Killing the Legends is available now, wherever audiobooks are sold, start listening. You've already earned some fun, so have it. It's like giving yourself permission to eat dessert first. With best fiends and exciting puzzle adventure game, you can have fiendish fun anywhere anytime. How often do you let yourself have some hard earned fun? Whatever your answer is, you deserve way more. Add some joy to your daily routine with best fiends. The puzzle adventure game you won't be able to put down. Brand new events and challenges pop up all year round, so you've always got a chance to earn exclusive in-game items, characters, and rewards. You've earned your fun time, go to the App Store, or Google Play to download best fiends for free. Plus, earn even more with $5 worth of in-game rewards when you reach level five. That's friends without the R. Best Fiends. Today's Fiend Things Story. On the morning of February 28th, 1993, federal forces arrived on David Kuresh's doorstep. They feared shootout ensued. It was the longest firefight in the history of American law enforcement, and it caused massive bloodshed on both sides. The deadly conflict also raised important questions about the government's use of force, and more broadly, about the limits of civil liberties in America. In the US, people are guaranteed the freedom to practice religion. The Constitution also promises that no one will be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process. But sometimes, these rights can cause strife between Americans and their leaders in government. The standoff at Waco was one of the most dramatic examples of this kind of conflict. To the branched dividends, the government raid was unprovoked. It forced a religious community to pay in blood for their constitutionally guaranteed protections. Government agents saw it differently. To them, Kuresh was a dangerous cult leader who had brainwashed his followers and violated gun laws. There were also allegations of polygamy, child abuse, and statutory rape. In this six-part series, we'll explore how this standoff and its tragic ending might have been averted. Part of the answer lies with the man who built a devoted following in Waco. He was the self-proclaimed savior who was born Vernon Howell, but became known to the world as David Kuresh. This is Episode 1, The New Messiah. It's mid-August 1968 in Richardson, Texas. Bonnie Howell-Deman sits in her station wagon, waiting to pick up her son from his first day of class. He's in the third grade, and his name is Vernon Howell. Howell-Deman sees the teachers exit the building. They're followed by a neat line of students. Howell-Deman smiles. It's only the first day, but the teachers already have the kids in order. So welcome, sight. She's glad they were finally able to move to such a good suburban school district outside Dallas. Howell-Deman is grateful to have her son, but Vernon sure hasn't been easy. She was only 14 when she had him, and she feels guilty for everything her son has put up with since. He never worked out with Vernon's dad, and she married the next guy pretty quickly but that didn't work out either. Her new husband had just left prison, and he beat Vernon every time he cried. The boy was just a toddler. Got so bad Vernon had to live with his grandmother. When the Holliman's life got a little more stable, Vernon moved back in with her. But the trouble is, her newest husband doesn't seem to love Vernon either. He's always yelling at the boy, telling him to be a man, and he beats him. And sees Vernon walking towards her across the school yard, his head hangs low, and there are no other students around him. Holliman frowns. He's usually so full of energy, and so good at making friends. Vernon opens the car door, and she sees that he's been crying. He slumps into the passenger seat, and blurs out his terrible discovery. He says he's in a class for kids with intellectual disabilities. Holliman lays a hand on his shoulder. Vernon sniffles, wipes the snott from his nose. As he stares at the window, Vernon's mom asks him why he would say such a thing, but she already knows the answer. She's finally got him into a special ed class. She just never thought to prepare him for the change. Then Vernon tells her what happened at recess. His class got let out late. They were running to the playground. That's when the other kids started shouting insults at him, making fun of him for being in special ed. Holliman watches him relive the moment all over again. All the confidence that usually makes him so popular seems like it drained out onto the floorboards. She tries to reassure him. He just has a little learning disability. That's all. She sees him frown at the words, so she tries again. You're special, she says. God made you very special. This seems to perk him up a bit. Vernon does love church, thanks to his grandma who started taking him to seventh day ad bent to services. Vernon thanks for a moment. Then gives his mom a little smile. He tells her she's right. Maybe God has a plan for him. It's a warm summer night in a grassy field outside Dallas in 1978. And about 10 years have passed since Vernon howl was taunted at his elementary school. Tonight Vernon howl lies on his back in the bed of his pickup, looking up at the stars. 19 years old, and for months now he's been living out of his truck. It's better than staying under his mother's roof. That's especially true when his stepfather is drinking. These days he's been talking a lot to God. Usually the Lord answers back but lately he's been silent. Howl feels lost without God's instructions. What he wants more than anything is to understand God's plan for him. There was a time when he felt he'd found his place in God's kingdom. He thought maybe he wasn't so stupid after all. He finally learned to read, and by middle school he'd memorized the best parts of the Bible. In high school he even preached to his classmates, but that was before he dropped out to earn some quick cash in the Texas oil boom. Howl discovered that he had a knack for machinery and fixing cars. He also learned how to play guitar. He even fell in love. Linda was the first girl he had ever been with. He was 18, but she was only 16. Howl knew he could get in trouble with the law, but he couldn't resist Linda. So he followed her to her bedroom while her dad was asleep. In a way really bothered him, the fact that he couldn't resist her. And only got worse from there. When Linda called and said she was pregnant, he panicked. He lied and said the baby couldn't be his, that he was sterile. The memory causes Howl to win. And now, as he lies in his truck, the stars overhead start to blur. The Lord told him that Linda had become his spiritual wife, and eventually he asked Linda to marry him. But she told him that she'd had an abortion, and she refused his proposal. Tonight, as he thinks back on that moment, Howl is racked with anguish. He wonders if the Lord will ever forgive him. Suddenly, Howl has the feeling that he's surrounded. He bolts upright in the truck bed, peers into the darkness. No one is out there, but he still feels like he's being watched from every angle. He's had this feeling before, like he's trapped. That was back when he was 12, and a group of older boys pinned him down, and sexually assaulted him. This is like that, but it's different. Because the voice of God enters Howl's mind. The Lord's presence is always terrifying and his power, but tonight, his message sounds merciful. Vernon, my son, I see you are hurting. You loved her. And now she's turned her back on you. She's rejected you. Howl tries to answer, but he's overwhelmed by pain, which fills his entire body. Vernon, for 19 years I've loved you. And for 19 years you've done a little to show your love to me. You've rejected me. Will you never change? Howl feels sick with remorse. But at that moment something begins to shift inside him. The remorse begins to fade. And suddenly Howl knows what he must do. He will never reject God again. He'll follow the Lord's path without wavering, because he cannot afford to lose God the way he lost Linda. You haven't lost your forever, Vernon. Use your gifts to reveal the truths of the Bible. Serve me faithfully, and I'll give her to you. The world rushes back, and the voice of God is gone. Howl is left quaking in the truck bed. He now knows the Lord has big plans for him, and he must devote himself fully. So he jumps out of the truck bed and into the driver's seat. He'll study his Bible by the truck's dome light, until the battery fades. It's the summer of 1981. At a rundown truck stop outside Waco, Texas, Vernon Howl finishes topping off his gas tank. He removes the nozzle and walks inside the station. Howl asks the old man behind the counter about a place called Mount Carmel. The man shoots Howl a suspicious look. Why would he want to go out there? Howl just shrugs and smiles, and the old man reluctantly gives him directions. Howl thanks him and heads to the restroom. He stares at his face in the mirror. He's grown a beard, looking a little scraggly. But that's probably what Christ looked like, too, he thinks. At least if you saw Jesus in real life and not in some painting in a stuffy old church. Howl is done with stuffy old churches. Just a few months ago he was kicked out of the seventh day Adventists. The pastor didn't like that Howl was sharing his messages from God. He was talking about the end days, about how a new prophet would open up the seven seals from the book of revelations. But the last draw was the vision Howl had received from God, showing him that he'd marry the pastor's young daughter. Howl exits the gas station and pulls back onto the highway, and once again he feels ashamed. Yet another of the Lord's marriage plans didn't pan out. He'd spent the past couple of months adrift trying to answer hard questions, where did his path lead? Why weren't there prophets in the world today? To Howl's amazement, one of his friends said she'd actually heard of a modern day prophet, an old woman living just a couple hours south of Dallas, a woman that lived in a place called Mount Carmel. That's where Howl is headed now. He looks up at the trees lining the road, the intersecting branches like a crown of thorns. He can hardly believe that in just a few more miles, he would get to meet his first real life prophet. It's less than an hour later, and Howl was 13 miles outside Wake-up. He's standing at the entrance to Mount Carmel Center. The harsh afternoon light bounces off the simple white buildings. Already, he admires the humble nature of this place. It was built right in the middle of a quiet prairie. Howl gets out and takes a look around. A group of children play in the fields. A few women watch them. As Howl approaches, a woman with a British accent greets him. She agrees to take him to meet the prophet, whose name is Lois Roden. The woman leads Howl through a labyrinth of buildings, and soon they find the prophet. Lois Roden welcomes Howl with a simple nod. She's a thin, bird-like woman in her late 60s, with oversized glasses and a prominent chin. She offers to take Howl on a tour of the property. Walking together, they pass a series of small houses. Nearby, a young couple lifts buckets of water from the stone well. Roden talks as they walk, and Howl hangs on her every word. He loves her confident voice. She stops and points out an old, weather-beaten church. She explains that this group, the branched avidians, started in the 1930s. They move to this property in the late 50s. Her husband, Ben Roden, was the prophet back then, before he died. Howl asks Roden whether she has any children. A shadow crosses her face. She says she had a son, George, but he wasn't with the community anymore. Just then a man hurries past, wearing a post-vincing uniform. Roden explains that many people at Mount Carmel have jobs outside the community. They don't pool their money, but they do live together and share a simple life, and they're bonded by the same goal. Together they await the coming of a new Christ, in the end of days. Howl can join them if he's devoted to their message, and if he can manage to live as simply as they do. Howl already knows his answer. All his life he's been searching for this sort of community. He will join the branched avidians, and he will follow Lois Roden. Or at least, that's where he'll start. Because lately, Vernon Howl has been hearing more from God. He's been sharing his plans with Howl, and the plan suggests that Vernon Howl might play a bigger role at Mount Carmel than anyone could ever imagine. If you're into true crime, the Generation Y podcast is essential listening. We started this podcast over 10 years ago to dissect some of the craziest and most notable murders, crimes, and conspiracy theories together, and we'd love for you to join us. And why is one of the longest running true crime podcasts out there, and we are still at it, unraveling a new case every week. We break down infamous cases like the Evil Genius Bank robbery, and lesser known cases like the case of Kimberly Rico. Did she actually kill her husband after they took part in a murder mystery game? We cover every angle, breaking down theories, diving deep into forensic evidence, and interviewing those close to the case. And with over 450 episodes, there's a little something for every true crime listener. All of the Generation Y podcasts on Amazon Music, or every listen to podcasts, or you can listen ad-free by joining Wondry Plus in the Wondry app. Hello, I'm Florence Giver, the best-selling author of the book, Women Don't Are You Pretty and Girl Crush, and this is my podcast, exactly. Join me as I connect with fascinating guests from authors, cultural commentators, doctors, thought leaders to psychologist, celebrities, and comedians. And guess what? We're back to do it all again in season two with the likes of the holistic psychologist, Victoria Skohn and Iona David, to name a few. Season two of exactly podcast out now wherever you get your podcasts. It's August 1983 on a drowsy afternoon. Vernon Howell walks confidently among the people of Mount Carmel. He greets the adults and smiles at the children. The group of girls have drawn a game of hot scotch in the prairie dirt. He stops to watch for a moment and then continues on. When Howell first moved here two years ago, he was a nobody. At first, he was assigned to clean dishes in the cafeteria. The community treated him like an errand boy, but Howell was always good at making friends, and Mount Carmel was no different. He started fixing people's cars. He helped prepare their houses, and slowly began to gain their respect. The biggest change was in his relationship to the prophet herself. Once Lois Rodin took a liking to Howell, he was free of dish duty for good. And now Howell arrives at Rodin's home. He looks over his shoulders, see if anyone's watching. No one is. And Howell feels relieved. Because a few months ago, God told Howell that his relationship with Rodin should become more intimate. It would fulfill a biblical prophecy that she, the prophet, would bear a son. He had told Rodin about his vision, and she agreed that they had to act on it. But they needed to be discreet. And while Rodin is in her late 60s, they're fortunate to have the Lord's favor. Together, they're sure to conceive a righteous son. Howell pushes open the weathered front door without knocking. He finds Rodin sitting on her old plaid sofa, but she looks troubled. Howell joins her on the sofa and puts an arm around her. He asks what's bothering her. She says it's her son, George. Howell fights to mask his anger. It's always George. Howell has never met Rodin's estranged son, but she's told him plenty. How George wanted to take over Mount Carmel when his father died. How he left, full of rage, when she wouldn't allow him to preach. How George still wants to take Lois's place when she's dead and gone. Howell has a different plan in mind. It's become increasingly clear to him that he should be Rodin's successor. He should be the prophet. He's even prepared a series of sermons, but Rodin keeps telling him to wait. To howell, it's obvious why she won't let him preach. She's worried about her son, George. Howell looks into Rodin's eyes and smiles. He reminds her that George lives way out in California and doesn't know what's going on in Texas. True, she says, but he'll find out eventually. Once he hears so and elses preaching from the Mount Carmel pulpit, he'll come back and he'll cause trouble. George is violent, she tells Howell. He has guns. He'll kill Howell if he finds out they're sharing a bed. Howell promises it won't be that bad. If she would just let him give a few sermons, she'll see. The people need to hear his words. They were given to him by God. Howell can sense that Rodin is hesitating, so he pushes harder. He suggests that maybe this is the reason she still is impregnant. She's blocking God's will by not allowing him to speak, so why would God allow her and older woman to bear a child and fulfill the prophecy? Rodin looks at Howell, her future softening. She doesn't say anything, but Howell can tell his words of his home. He knows she'll relent soon and then he'll finally get his chance to preach. It's the fall of 1983. Inside the small church at Mount Carmel, most Rodin waits for Vernon Howell to make his debut as a prophet. He stands at the back of the church and watches as her followers enter and file into the pews. It's strange seeing them gather for someone else's sermons. Usually when the service starts, she feels calm as she awaits God's inspiration. But today all she feels is anxiousness. Howell's sermon today will set her flock on a whole new course. It's the first public sign that he will be Rodin's successor. As the last of her followers arrive, Rodin notices the floorboards creak. The church's foundation has been sinking, an aging church to match her aging body, she thinks, and as Howell keeps saying, it's time for fresh blood at Mount Carmel. Rodin watches Howell launch into his sermon. He speaks of sin and salvation, but his mix of calm and passion, that's what most inspires her. Howell seems to have complete faith in the truth of his words. At first, her followers look to her, silently asking if it's okay for them to accept his guidance. But soon there has wrapped up in his message as she is. It's clear today, God has given Howell a gift. Howell is pacing back and forth now. The energy in the church feels electric. His sermon is gaining force and momentum. Everyone is transfixed by his inspired sermon. But suddenly a terrible worry begins to know at Rome. What if Howell is a mistake? She didn't have much of a choice. Her son George is no prophet. No one follows him, even if he tries to look strong, strutting about with his pistol. But her flock will follow Vernon Howell. Rodin looks around the church. Every member of the congregation is locked in on Howell. Some nod in agreement, some are visibly moved. Rodin thinks, yes, it must be God's plan for Howell to lead them. Even if that means risking George's wrath. One brings her hands together and prays for peace at Mount Carmel. Just then Howell pauses in his sermon. He gaze straight at her and Rodin realizes that what she set in motion today can never be reversed. It's 1983, just a few weeks before Christmas. George Rodin stands at the Mount Carmel pulpit. His black steps and hat is tipped back and a pistol gleams at his hip. At the back of the church, Rodin listens, her hands trembling. Just as she feared, George rushed home as soon as he heard about Howell's debut as a prophet. And now he's delivering a hellish sermon to the flock, and the subject of the sermon is Vernon Howell. Lois looks over at her young lover, sitting in the back of the church. How gives her a contemptuous look? It's as if George's return is all her fault. George roars from the front of the church, working himself into a frenzy. He's so angry that spit flies from his mouth. He calls Howell a use surfer, a devil worshipper. Lois listens in horror, wishing she could just disappear. But George is just getting started. He then accuses Howell of sexually assaulting Lois. Up until now, the people have been sitting stock still. They're too shocked to speak, but this accusation is too much. Because over the past few months, Howell has built a strong following. And so when George starts raving about sexual assault, several Howell's followers stand up, begin shouting him down. Lois looks over to see Howell's reaction. He's still seated, calmly, letting his followers attack George on his behalf. Towards the front, a middle-aged woman loudly denounces George. She calls him a false prophet, but that makes him even more enraged, and he shows her. The woman trips backwards over a pew and falls to the ground, landing with a thump. There's a gasp in the church, but no one seems willing to come near George, except Vernon Howell. Lois watches as Howell stands up, walks silently to the front of the room, and helps the middle-aged woman up from the floor. Howell leaves the church with her, and almost everyone gets up and trails behind them. But as they leave, Lois' flock carefully avoids, looking at her. It's an overcast day in January 1984. Lois rodents stand at her bedroom window, staring the line of cars making a slow exodus from Mount Carmel. Her worst fears have come to pass, and it's happened much more quickly than she could have ever imagined. Earlier today, Vernon Howell told Rodin that he and his followers were leaving Mount Carmel. He didn't want to risk open conflict with George, and George had taken eroming the property with an oozy submachine gun. When Rodin begged Howell to reconsider, he grew angry, and he had said things she couldn't believe were coming for her chosen successor. He said she was no longer a prophet. He accused her of losing her connection to God. He even said that the Lord was punishing her, and that this was the reason why she would never bear God's child. But what Howell said next hurt her more than any of the insults. He said that he would soon marry Rachel Jones. The shocked Lois Rodin. Rachel is like a granddaughter. She's only 14, and the oldest daughter of one of the families in the community. But her parents gave their consent to the marriage, and that means she would become Howell's spiritual and legal wife. Rodin closes the blinds in anguish, and the room is cast into shadow. She can't stand to watch anymore. She's lost the chance for a miracle child. She's lost her successor, now she's losing her beloved followers, all she has left is her wild son, George, and she can't bear to turn him away. It's January 1985 in Jerusalem, Israel. 15-year-old Rachel Howell, who used to be Rachel Jones, watches as the sunset cast a glow of the pale stone temples of this ancient city. She's seen this site many times on this trip with her husband, Vernon. It usually leaves her in complete awe, but tonight she's feeling something else. It's loneliness, the sense that she's a foreigner in a foreign place. She knows she's not crazy. It's been many weeks since she last saw her family. She misses her parents and her sisters most of all. Rachel moves closer to the window and peers down the street, but still no sign of Vernon. He's been gone all day, visiting a place called Mount Zion. It's a special place, because she knows that on Mount Zion, she and the other chosen ones will ascend to heaven before the final judgment. Vernon can't say exactly when this will happen, but that's why they came to Israel so that he could learn more about their place in God's plan. Rachel leaves the window and walks to the bathroom. She's still getting used to all the changes in her body now that she's pregnant. In a lot of ways, it's been a strange year. First, her parents told her about Howell's vision, that she should be his wife and bear his children. She knew Howell was the man who preached for hours about sin, and at first she was frightened. But her parents said that Howell was inspired by God and that their union would be holy. She accepted their words as truth. Rachel looks in the bathroom mirror and comes for long blonde hair. It's beautiful here in Jerusalem, but she's sick of all this moving around. She married Howell just before he led her family and the rest of his followers out of Mount Carmel. First, they moved to Waco, then they moved to a smaller, more isolated community, and at last, they settled in the middle of nowhere, way out in the woods near Palestine, Texas. Rachel hated the dirt and the cold of the camp, but at least they were finally safe from George Roten. Just then Howell burst through the door. Rachel turns to greet him, but stops when she sees the wild expression on his face. What's wrong? Are you okay? We need to get back to Texas right away. Rachel's heart leaps. For days, she's been praying to be able to see her sisters again. Are you sure, Verne? I thought you wanted me to have the baby in Israel. Howell gives her a dismissive look. Everything's changed. You can't understand. Yes, I can. We're together. We're bonded. Howell pauses and his face softens. Rachel, I've had a vision. I was atop Mount Zion. Seven angels came to me. They were riding fiery horses and had flaming swords. They led me to God. Rachel's eyes widen. The Lord gave me a scroll, said I should eat it. When I did, it gave me perfect knowledge of Scripture. Everything the Bible predicts for the end of this earth. It all, it all became clear. Just like that. Howell looks into Rachel's eyes. I am the final Messiah, the final Christ. Our people will be the first to ascend to God's kingdom. Rachel knows that she should be excited, but all she feels is scared. Not about our baby, Vernon. Oh, he'll play a part in all of this, too. An important part. The end won't come for 10 more years. In 1995, I saw it. I saw it as clear as day. 10 years is a lot of time. Rachel wants to cry. She knows the end is a beautiful thing. That it means all the suffering on earth will cease. But there's still so much she wants to do. Will we go home to Mount Carmel before that? Of course. Of course. I don't know when yet, but we'll find a way. We'll get back to Mount Carmel. The other George Rodin allows it or not. How suddenly it looks exhausted. He flops down on the bed and stares up at the ceiling. Rachel lies down beside him, waiting. She breathes a sigh of relief when she hears her husband softly snoring. She lies awake, thinking. She smiles at the thought of seeing her parents soon and eventually seeing her home again. But then she pictures George Rodin with all his guns. She worries what will happen when Hal confronts him. The future she wants at Mount Carmel is peaceful. But right now, all she can see is anger and darkness. It's fall in 1987 and a brisk morning at the Davidian Camp near Palestine, Texas. Vernon Hal walks among his followers as they tend to their cookfires. Smoke curls up through the pine trees. He spots his wife, Rachel, huddling near one of the fires. She holds their son's sire as at her breast. It's been more than a year since Hal had his vision in Jerusalem. In more than a year since he uncovered that he is the second coming of Christ as he and his group prepare for the end of times. Despite this revelation, he and his followers are still living in the wilderness. Their families are packed into old school buses and make shift log cabins. There's no electricity or running water. There are things Hal likes about this setup. The hardship keeps everyone focused on preparing to meet God. He's grown more confident in his teachings and now Hal imposes a strict diet on his followers. They must all be pure. Hal looks out at the camp and satisfaction. His army is stronger than ever. But he can't hide it. There's a glaring problem. No matter how loyal his followers are, he knows he won't be the undisputed prophet for all the vidians until he retakes Mount Carmel. And that won't be easy. Lois Rodin died and Hal felt pity for her. Pity that she hadn't accepted his role as the new Christ. But her death also created a problem. Now George Rodin has fully taken control of the property. He's even renamed it Rodinville. There's little chance he'll give it up easily. That's how he continues to survey his camp. A man arrives and asks to speak with him. He says he's one of the few who's still living at Mount Carmel. He tells Hal some big news. George Rodin wants to have a showdown. A way to prove who's the new prophet wants and for all. The man explains how this battle will work. George has dug up the body of one of Lois' followers from the Mount Carmel Cemetery. Whichever one of them can bring the woman back from the dead will be the next prophet. Hal laughs at the messenger. He knew George was crazy, but this. He had no idea George was so out of control. He shakes his head and says, no. Tell George I'm not in the resurrection business. But as the man leaves the camp, the thought occurs to Hal. George's latest scheme may be crazy, but maybe it's exactly what Hal needs. A way to push the last rival prophet off his perch. Just a few days later, inside the McClennan County Sheriff's office in Waco, Texas, the deputies sit to the reception desk, slowly filling out a crossword puzzle, waiting for a shift to end. The deputy hears the door open, looks up and sees a small group of men heading toward him. The curly hair man in front stops at the desk, the others arrange themselves behind him, almost like bodyguards. Get help boys? Sheriff, I'm Vernon Hal. Do you remember me? I called about the corpse that's being desecrated up at Mount Carmel Center. The deputy sets aside his crossword puzzle. Sir, I told you that's not something I'm going to bother with if you don't have any evidence. Hal reaches into his backpack, pulls out a stack of photos. Oh, I've got the evidence right here. Take a look. He drops the photos on the desk, and the deputy begins flipping through them. They show a coffin, draping a decaying Israeli flag. The coffin sits at the front of what looks like a simple country church. Yeah, I can see that's a coffin. So are you going to go out and rest George Rodin? Well, it's a coffin. It's dirty, so I guess it's been in the ground. But how do I know there's a body in there? Of course there's a body. It's a woman who's been dead 20 years. Go out there and arrest George Rodin. See for yourself. Now, sir, calm down. I've got better things to do than chasing down skeletons. I need evidence there's a body. I'm not arresting George Rodin or anyone else over nothing. So you want pictures of actual bones. That's what you want. If you have proof that there's a body, yes, I'll go out and look into it. Otherwise, just leave me out of this dispute, okay? It seems to me like you want us to do your job for you, deputy. Now, it seems to me like you boys had better watch yourselves. It's a tough crowd over at Mount Carmel. The deputy watches howl and men turn and walk toward the door. He picks up his crossword again. Hopefully, this is the last to hear as a fern and howl. But somehow, he doubts it. It's a few weeks later just after midnight. Howl and eight of his followers are driving from their camp in Palestine to Mount Carmel. The November air is bitingly cold, and howl has equipped his disciples with insulated coveralls designed for deer hunting. They're also armed with rifles and shotguns. The Davidians never had an arsenal until now. Howl has been around guns since childhood, but he's never pointed one at another human. And he hopes he doesn't have to tonight. Still getting these photos for the sheriff's office is the best chance he has to reclaim Mount Carmel. And George being George, howl has to be prepared. They park the van just outside of Mount Carmel and get out. Howl takes the lead. He clutches his rifle and stays low in the brush. Up ahead, he can see the dim outline of the church in the moonlight. The coffin should be just inside the front door. Howl drops into a ditch at the edge of the church yard. The others join him. None of them have done anything like this before, and he can see the fear on their faces. He gives what he hopes is a reassuring smile. Howl feels a fierce determination coming over him. Now that he's returned to Mount Carmel, he's ready to risk anything to get it back. He sends one of his followers to sneak into the church with a camera. Howl and the others would provide cover in case he gets caught. Howl holds his breath as his followers scurries across the moonlit yard and ducks into the church. The man is only inside for a minute when he suddenly comes running back with bad news. The coffin isn't in the church like they'd hoped. Howl gathers the men around him. He tells them he has a new plan. They're going to have to go from one building to the next until they find the body. And that's what they do. After searching several abandoned homes, Howl finds himself staring at a familiar, worn-down structure. It's lowest rodents old house. Howl swallows hard. He's almost certain her son is living inside. Howl motions to two of his followers. They should sneak across the yard. Suddenly, here's dogs start to howl inside the house. Within seconds, George Rodin comes charging out the front door, his oozey in his hands. Howl's followers hit the dirt behind a concrete slab and George begins spraying bullets over their heads. Howl breaks cover and levels his rifle. George sees him and ducks behind a gnarled pine tree. Howl then fires, round after round into the tree trunk, hoping to keep George pinned down. That's when he hears of sirens. He sees the flashing lights with three sheriff's cruisers racing toward him. The deputies get out with their guns drawn and shout at everyone to drop their weapons. George drops his submachine gun and howl sits down his rifle, puts his hands over his head. A deputy forces Howl into handcuffs, telling him they're taking him in for attempted murder. Howl barks at them and demands to know whether they're going to arrest George. Not for defending his own property, the deputy tells him. Howl asks what about the body George desecrated. The deputy just laughs and shakes his head. Howl looks at the terrified faces of his followers being forced into patrol cars. He feels more anger than fear. Christ faced the ultimate persecution, but he won in the end. And so will Howl. He is the new Messiah, and this night proves that his flock will do anything for him, even if it means facing arrest or death. From wondering, this is episode 1 of Waco from American Scandal. In our next episode, Howl and his followers go on trial and a new enemy emerges, one who's intent on bringing down the new Messiah, Vernon Howl. If you like our show, please give us a five star rating and leave a review and be sure to tell your friends. I also have two other podcasts you might like, American History Tellers and Business Movers. Follow on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, or wherever you're listening right now. Or you can listen to new episodes early and add free by subscribing to Wondry Plus in Apple Podcasts or in the Wondry app. We'll also find some links and offers from our sponsors in the episode notes. Supporting them helps us keep offering our shows for free. Another way you can support this show is by filling out a small survey at Wondry.com slash survey to tell us what topics we might come next. You can also find us and me on Twitter. Follow me at Lindsay A. Graham, Lindsay with an A, Middle and Initially. And thank you. If you'd like to learn more about Waco, we recommend the book The Ashes of Waco by Dick J. Revis and Memories of the Branch Dividions by Bonnie Haldeman. This episode contains reenactments and traumatized details. And while in most cases we can't know exactly what was said, all our dramatizations are based on historical research. American Scaneless Hosted, edited and executed produced by me, Lindsay Graham for Ayrship. Audio editing by Molly Bach, Sound Design by Derek Barrens, Music by Lindsay Graham. This episode is written by Michael Canyon Meyer, edited by Christina Malsberger. Our senior producer is Gabe Riven. Our staff, Jenny Lauer Beckman and Marsha Louis for Wondry.