David Koresh's Wife Rachel Was A Branch Davidian Before He Was

In April 1993, over 70 men, women, and children died in the Branch Davidian complex near Waco, Texas. Among them were Branch Davidian leader David Koresh and his wife Rachel Koresh, according to "Waco: American Apocalypse," a three-part documentary series on Netflix. The deaths came after a 51-one-day armed standoff with federal agents who sought to serve a search warrant for firearms violations, Vox reports. The fact that Koresh's wife Rachel and the couple's children died in the standoff lends an even more tragic note to the story.

Koresh was clearly involved in disaster preparedness, apocalyptic religious thinking, and anti-government sentiment. Other aspects of Koresh's behavior, such as the fact that he married Rachel when she was underage, indicate a highly disturbing marital relationship in advance of the siege.

Rachel's relationship to Waco

Born Rachel Jones, David Koresh's future wife and her family often visited the Waco property when it operated as a Davidian summer camp for children, The Washington Post reports. Davidians had existed for decades before Koresh got involved; Victor Houteff fronted the movement in 1930, which was an offshoot of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Central to the Davidian worldview is that Jesus was not the Messiah. The Messiah, in their view, is yet to come. 

When she was only 14, Rachel — already a Davidian — married Koresh. Though The Washington Post also reports Koresh is thought to have fathered as many as 17 children, he evidently fathered only two with Rachel: Cyrus and Starr (via Men's Health). Described as "bubbly" when a young girl, once Rachel fell in with Koresh, someone who knew her observed, "She was definitely more serious, and quiet" (per The Washington Post).

Reluctantly, Rachel adjusted to Koresh sleeping with other women

By 1990, David Koresh, born Vernon Howell, had assumed control of the Waco Davidian sect and in doing so, consolidated his power. Koresh's interpretation of Davidian theology said that he was the Messiah, and due to that fact, he had the right to take multiple wives and father children with other women, among them Rachel Koresh's sister, Michelle Jones. At first, Rachel was uncomfortable with the relationship between her husband and sister, but she soon acquiesced. According to The Austin Chronicle, Koresh claimed a vision told him he needed to father children with Michelle (sometimes spelled Michele) and shortly thereafter, Rachel dreamed Koresh would die if he did not follow through with it. 

Koresh fathered two children with Michelle, who died at the age of 18 in the Waco conflagration, along with their children. According to a former Davidian sect member, David Thibodeau, who at Koresh's request became Michelle's husband, and who authored the book about his time at the Koresh compound, "A Place Called Waco: A Survivor's Story," Koresh fathered 17 children with 11 of the 15 women he had been sleeping with. Eight of those women and 12 of their children died in the Waco blaze. Though Koresh was clearly guilty of statutory rape violations and was a sexual predator, the full extent of his sexual molestation of women, girls, and children, said by some to be widespread, is uncertain. Federal concern over the Branch Davidian sect in Waco was related to firearm violations, not Koresh's reported sex crimes.

Koresh kept Rachel under his control

As Frontline reports, in the time before the FBI and Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearm (ATF) standoff at the rural Waco property, federal agents had bugged David Koresh, and through these recordings, insight into the relationship of Koresh and his wife, Rachel Koresh, can be found. Instances include Koresh scolding Rachel to keep control of their children, in others, Koresh threatens violence to others outside his family. Evidently, no evidence exists that Rachel, a lifelong Davidian, ever questioned her husband.

According to Houston lawyer Jack Zimmermann who spoke with Koresh near the end (via The Washington Post), "[Rachel] was polite and pleasant and very quiet." Zimmerman went on to add, "She acted like a wife whose husband was conducting business at home, and she was carefully letting him do his business." In addition to her children and sister, Rachel's father, Perry Jones, also a Branch Davidian, died in an earlier firefight related to the federal standoff. 

Rachel's brother, David Jones, a Koresh bodyguard, died from a gunshot wound that may have been self-inflicted. To this day, it's uncertain how the Waco compound fire got started, and controversy remains over the federal handling of the case. Rachel, who died at the age of 23, is buried in Waco at Rosemound Cemetery.

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