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Mother of Cult Member Insists Tanks Started Fire

April 27, 1993|THUAN LE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM HILLS — The mother of a Branch Davidian member who apparently died in the Waco fire said Monday she still believes the blaze was ignited by federal tanks, despite investigators' findings that the blaze was deliberately set from inside.

Since a week ago, when Ruth Mosher saw flames consume the religious compound where her daughter, Sherri Lynn Jewell, 43, had been living, she said she has been planning Jewell's memorial service and "crying a lot."

"I just know (the Branch Davidian members) did not set the fire," said Mosher, 69. "The tank knocked the kerosene lamp over and, boy, it just caught on. If you watch the tape again, you can see (the federal forces) were still ramming when the fire started."

She said one of the Branch Davidian members now in custody has phoned her with this information. She declined to name the caller.

Though Jewell's remains have not yet been identified in the ashes where the compound once stood, her name was not on the list of survivors.

Mosher said she has sent her daughter's dental records to McLennan County officials.

Jewell first associated with the Branch Davidians while living in Hawaii, where she was born, Mosher said. Mother and daughter talked weekly after Jewell moved to Waco in the summer of 1990. But all communication ended when the standoff began Feb. 28.

Mosher said memorial services for Jewell have been scheduled here, in Hawaii and in Michigan, where Jewell's 12-year-old daughter lives with her father, David Jewell.

Kiri "doesn't seem to be bitter," Mosher said of her telephone conversation with her granddaughter over the weekend. "She's actually pretty calm. I don't know if it's struck her yet.

"I'm very bitter. I'm angry at everybody because she was such a wonderful person," she said.

Mosher added that she has received phone calls from Jewell's former students at Kraemer Junior High School in Placentia, as well as her old friends from Hawaii.

A memorial service for Jewell will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Fullerton Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 2355 W. Valencia Drive, Fullerton. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be sent to the CARES Program for at-risk teens at Kraemer Junior High School, 645 N. Angelina Drive, Placentia, Calif. 92670.

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