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Profile: Rick Ross
Rick Ross was a participant or observer in the following events:
A Dallas Morning News investigation is unable to find definitive information about how the Branch Davidian sect, currently besieged by federal authorities after a shootout with BATF agents (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993 and March 1, 1993), supports itself financially. “How did an obscure religious sect manage to feed, clothe, house, and heavily arm dozens of devotees, with no obvious source of income?” the article asks, and does not provide a conclusive answer. Some members tithe their income and others donate their belongings. Federal authorities suspect the Davidians, or some individual members such as leader David Koresh (see November 3, 1987 and After), of selling drugs and/or laundering money. Except for a large and expensive cache of weapons (see June-July 1992), the Davidians live modestly, according to court documents. They own a few old cars, use recycled and scavenged building materials to work on their ramshackle Mt. Carmel home (or “compound” as some call it), aren’t up-to-date on their property taxes, and use cash, food stamps, and other public aid to purchase bulk food. The furnishings in the main building are comfortable but not plush; they have a swimming pool and a satellite dish, but no indoor plumbing. Steve Schneider, Koresh’s close aide, told reporters the day after the siege began that the members “all tithe… we work hard and save money.” Some members work outside the compound. Rick Ross, a Phoenix “deprogrammer” who believes Koresh runs a cult and has worked to help former Davidians reintegrate into society, has told reporters that “good salaries earned on the outside were plowed back into the sect.” Koresh is “very much into money,” he said. A federal agent says that Koresh requires members to give up their personal goods and homes, and takes all of the money; however, a former Davidian says that Koresh does not solicit contributions, and paid $40/month for room and board. “I never saw any interaction of money between disciples and Koresh,” he says. “I don’t know where he got his money from.… That’s the weird thing. You see he can afford all these things, and none of his people seemed like they had a lot of money. There’s something fishy here.” The 77-acre compound is valued at $122,000, and contains a main building (described by the reporters as “fortresslike”) and a number of small, ramshackle outbuildings and freestanding houses. [Dallas Morning News, 3/8/1993]
Several former members of the Branch Davidian community outside Waco, Texas (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993 and March 1, 1993), appear on the Phil Donahue morning talk show. The show opens with a wrenching interview with Kiri Jewell, a young woman who left the Waco group with her father. Donahue says to her: “[Y]ou lived in this compound from age six till about a year and a half ago. You’re no longer in the cult because your father [David Jewell] successfully sued your mother for custody and you made your way to freedom, we might say, a year and a half ago.” Donahue calls the Branch Davidians a “destructive cult,” noting leader David Koresh’s marathon Bible study sessions (see February 27 - March 3, 1993), and says: “So the pressure was enormous, wasn’t it? He was a very controlling person.” (Two years later, Kiri Jewell will tell of her repeated rapes at the hands of Koresh—see July 21, 1995.) Former Davidian Marc Breault, who left the community after losing a power struggle with Koresh (see Around 4:00 p.m. February 28, 1993), focuses on how “easy” it was for him to be “sucked in” by Koresh and his group. Cult expert Rick Ross draws a sharp line between the Davidians and Koresh, saying: “Many of the people in this compound are highly-educated, very intelligent people, many very idealistic, very loving, very kind. And the fact is that it’s sad to say, but we’re all vulnerable to the kind of mental manipulation that this man pulled on these people and he has exploited them, dominated them, and taken control of their lives.… The group’s got an absolute leader. Everything the leader says is right, is right. Whatever he says is wrong, is wrong. And if you think for yourself, you’re rebellious, you’re evil, and your family is, too.” [Tabor and Gallagher, 1995, pp. 120-121] Two days later, Koresh’s aide Steve Schneider will demand a transcript from the Donahue show; the FBI will deny the request. [US Department of Justice, 10/8/1993]
Among the numerous former Branch Davidians giving interviews to the press in the months following the tragedy at the Waco compound (see March 1, 1993 and April 19, 1993) are a young man and his family who departed the compound before the fiery debacle. In giving an interview to reporters for Modern Maturity magazine, a publication for elderly readers, the family does not allow their names to be used; the young man is only identified as “Robert.” Robert’s parents, like a good number of the Davidians under leader David Koresh’s thrall, are elderly. The reporters call their story “a cautionary tale for both the elderly and those who love them.” Robert’s parents, both Seventh-day Adventists (see November 3, 1987 and After), are retired civil servants with little to occupy their time. Koresh visited their church in Hawaii in 1986, when he was heading a small group of breakway Davidians in southern California. Robert’s wife “Leslie” recalls that Robert’s mother “told me Koresh had the answers to all their questions. I remember looking at their Bibles. Every single passage was underlined in red. There were notes everywhere, on every page. It looked to me like Koresh had rewritten the Bible—for his own purposes.” In 1988, Robert’s parents journeyed to Texas to be with Koresh and his new, larger community of Davidians near Waco. They sold their home and gave the proceeds—over a half million dollars—to Koresh, in keeping with his mandate that all worldly goods be turned over to his care. Robert refused to join them. He recalls: “We were alarmed, but at that point we knew nothing about David Koresh and the Branch Davidians. One of my brothers said something about religious freedom. We knew we couldn’t stop them.” The parents became more and more isolated; they stopped returning their children’s phone calls, and when a family member did manage to speak to them, they had little to say. In 1989, the parents left the compound and visited Robert. The son was extremely concerned at their appearance. They were thin and undernourished. They refused to eat the dinner Robert and Leslie had prepared for them; they had unconventional diet restrictions, such as no apples (the thin skin allowed toxins to enter the fruit, they said) and their vegetables had to be diced into perfect cubes. Both were unwashed and unkempt, and Robert’s father suffered from constant colds and a skin rash. The more Robert learned about his parents’ day-to-day life in Texas, the more discomfited he became. His father lived in an unheated shack on the compound and was not allowed to keep his own food; the mother stayed with the other women as a “wife of God,” meaning Koresh. They had been trained to shoot M-16 rifles. After the parents returned to Waco, Robert and Leslie began researching the Branch Davidians. Eventually they stumbled across Rick Ross, a veteran “cult deprogrammer” who had extensive experience working with Davidians to reintegrate them into society. Ross told them of Koresh’s mind-control techniques. In 1991, Robert’s brother injured himself by falling off a roof. The parents eventually visited the injured brother in Hawaii, and then visited the other children in California. Robert and Leslie kept the parents at their home in San Francisco, making one excuse after another to delay their departure for Waco, and never left them alone. They kept in close telephone contact with Ross about how to “deprogram” them. Robert showed them “counter-cult” videotapes and explained their meaning. He hid their Bibles, which were full of notes dictated by Koresh. Finally, they introduced the parents to another couple who had once belonged to a cult. After days of intensive intervention, the parents finally agreed not to return to the Branch Davidians. However, they wanted to return to Waco for their belongings. Robert convinced his mother to stay in San Francisco; he and a family friend accompanied his father to the Waco compound. They successfully retrieved their belongings without incident, though Koresh spoke briefly to the father, and the father returned to the truck in tears. Now the parents live in Hawaii, still trying to cope with their years under Koresh’s influence. Their relationship with Robert is still strained. Robert says his biggest concern is his parents’ safety. He believes they will eventually come to grasp the danger he thinks they were in, and says: “I find that society in general knows little about cults. We forgot Jim Jones very quickly. I hope we don’t forget David Koresh.” [Modern Maturity, 6/1994]
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