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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Koresh 'Wife' Testimony Stuns Panel

WASHINGTON -- A teenage girl's gripping account of being forced at age 10 to have sex in a hotel room with Branch Davidian cult leader David Koresh effectively muted criticism of federal law enforcement agents on the first day of congressional hearings into the tragic 1993 siege of the cult's compound near Waco, Texas.

Speaking in a soft yet determined voice, Kiri Jewell, now 14, recalled that she was about 7 when Koresh first notified her on a Southern California recreational outing that she would become one of his wives. Jewell said that she was also taught how to place a gun inside her mouth to commit suicide.

Her testimony Wednesday before a silent, jam-packed committee room on Capitol Hill instantly transformed a boisterous proceeding filled with partisan bickering. Republicans, who had scheduled eight days of hearings to attack the government's decision to raid the Davidian compound in assaults that led to the deaths of more than 80 sect members and four federal agents, were stunned by Jewell's allegations against Koresh.

But they were also frustrated by the testimony. They had hoped to focus the day's attention on the shortcomings of a legal affidavit used by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to obtain a warrant to search the Davidian complex for unlawful firearms and explosives. Among the criticisms raised during testimony was a listing in the affidavit of child-abuse allegations -- a crime outside the jurisdiction of the ATF.

"This is a sympathetic witness to an issue that has nothing to do with this hearing,'' said Republican Representative Steven Schiff. "So details about under-age sex are going to get more attention than a faulty search warrant," he added.

The start of the hearings that will examine the conduct of the ATF, FBI and Justice Department during the 51-day siege erupted in bitter partisan arguing when Democrats claimed they had evidence that the National Rifle Association had paid explosives experts conducting research for the joint committee and that NRA lawyers were selected to testify without revealing their affiliation with the pro-gun lobby. In addition, a potential witness earlier had disclosed that she was interviewed by an NRA employee who identified herself as a committee staff member.

The hearing kicked off with a government prosecutor asserting that Koresh had scripted an apocalyptic theology that directly led to the deaths of sect members and government agents. But the two House subcommittees jointly conducting the hearings also heard testimony that the government could have avoided a violent confrontation by accepting Koresh's invitation to inspect weapons at his Mount Carmel Center or by arresting him on at least three separate occasions when he left the compound in the weeks leading up to the raid.

But the day's most dramatic moment came with the testimony from Jewell, whose mother died during the April 19, 1993, FBI assault on the Davidian compound. Calmly reading from a prepared statement, Jewell said that she and her mother, Sherri, first lived with Koresh in the late 1980s in a two-bedroom house in San Bernardino, California.

When Jewell was 7, Koresh notified her during a motorcycle trip in the San Bernardino mountains that she would be among his chosen women.

"On that trip, he took me for a ride down a mountain ski trail on the chair lift," Jewell said. "That was when David said personally to me that one day I would be one of his wives.''

Her description of sex with Koresh was so graphic that lawmakers felt compelled to warn television viewers. Jewell testified that Koresh had intercourse with her in 1991 when she was 10. She said the incident took place in a Dallas-area motel room while her mother and a friend were out shopping.

"I took a shower. Then I was brushing my hair, sitting in the chair and David told me to come to sit down by him in the bed," Jewell said. "He kissed me. I just sat there, but then he laid me down."

Afterward, Jewell said, Koresh "read to me from the 'Song of Solomon.'"

Jewell left the Davidians in 1992 when her father David won a court order prohibiting Koresh and her mother from contacting her.