Inside Branch Davidian
Former Guam resident Dana Kiyabu, David Koresh’s sixth wife, talks about her upcoming memoir revealing her life inside the Waco cult’s compound
Who would have thought the infamous Branch Davidian cult leader David Koresh had ties to Guam?
“I was David’s sixth wife,” said Dana Kiyabu, who grew up on Guam. She is a former member of the Branch Davidian community in Waco, Tx.
Kiyabu made a three-day stopover on Guam in October and showed up in a church in Dededo. The Pacific Island Times had a chat with her. Such a brief interview that night ended rather quickly before she finished her story. The rest of the interview was done via email from her home in Windward, Oahu.
Koresh had multiple wives and fathered at least 15 children. It’s been “told that it was part of Koresh's religious role as the ‘Sinful Messiah’ to impregnate young virgins. He reputedly made about 400 virgins pregnant,” according to his followers.
Kiyabu is the mother of Koresh’s two sons, Sky Borne Okimoto, 31, and Jared Michael Okimoto, 28. They are both serving in the Army National Guards as members of the 777th Aviation Support Battalion at Joint Base Pearl Harbor–Hickam in Oahu.
“They are wonderful people and I am blessed to have them in my life,” she said in an email to Pacific Island Times. “Sky has a degree in Geography; Jared is planning to move back in with me next March to support me in my many challenges ahead.”
The 53-year-old Kiyabu holds a master’s in computer information system. She came to Guam after a month-long vacation in Australia and New Zealand where she visited friends. Her itinerary included Guam to reconnect with friends she grew up with. She called Guam her home for a good part of her young life.
“I was visiting friends who were former Branch Davidians as part of my research for a book I’m writing,” Kiyabu said about her trip to Australia and New Zealand. “It’s been a very healing journey for all of us.”
Born in Hawaii, Kiyabu was 7 years old when her family moved to Guam in 1972. She attended primary and secondary schools at Guam Mission Academy, known today as Guam Adventist Academy, where graduated high school in 1983. After high school, she moved back to Hawaii, where she attended college at the University of Hawaii in Manoa.
Not too long after that, Kiyabu said she began seriously searching for the “meaning of life.” In 1986, Kiyabu met and got tangled up with Vernon Howell, better known as David Koresh, the self-styled prophet who thought he was the new Christ.
Before long though, Kiyabu found herself drawn into Koresh’s study group which eventually “went to Palestine, TX., to study more.” With Koresh in her life and then living in Texas, her story took a turn she honestly believed would enlighten her further and put her on a straight path to heaven.
That unexpected turn, however, eventually became years of disillusionment under the magic spell of the cult leader.
“I stopped believing when he implied he was Jesus Christ, but it took almost a year for me to actually leave,” Kiyabu told Pacific Island Times. “Not because I was prevented from going, but because I wanted to believe again.”
But it never happened in spite of extra prayers so she could believe in him again. Eventually, she and her two sons were able to finally break free of Koresh’s life-altering influences. “I simply packed up and left with my children— ages 3 and 9 months old. I returned to my parents in Hawaii and continued nursing school.”
Roughly, a year later, she and her children watched in horror on television as the Waco compound burned to the ground with what used to be their family. Billed as “The Waco Siege,” the 51-day raid—from Feb. 28 to April 19, 1993 — by federal and local law enforcers led to a gun battle that killed four government agents.
Kiyabu, a registered nurse at the Hawaii State Hospital for 25 years, said what is known to the public today about Koresh and the Branch Davidian community is not the total truth. So, she is writing a book to speak out against the injustices of the federal government.
Her upcoming book, Kiyabu said, will answer a lot of questions that people are still asking today. She hopes it becomes a healing tool for many people whose lives were affected by the cult.
“After more than 25 years since the fire consumed the Branch Davidian community compound on April 19, 1993, I am still asked questions about my experience: How I got involved, how I left, and how my family is doing today. Now that the boys have grown up, it is time to tell the story,” Kiyabu wrote in the proposed introduction of her book.
She said there were parts of the story that the world has never heard of before.
“This is the story of our day-to-day lives and how we were able to live a relatively normal life within our community. It is also a story of healing, and how I dealt with re-entry into society,” she said. “I write this for the children, particularly his children, who deserve to hear it told without the negative bias that haunts so much of this very public tragedy.”
Koresh died along with 76 Branch Davidians including 20 children during an FBI attack in an attempt to smoke the cult members out of the ranch, where the group was suspected of stockpiling illegal weapons. During the attack, a fire engulfed Mount Carmel Center.
“This is about people, real people,” Kiyabu said of her upcoming book. “David was a real person. Those who perished were real people. Those who survived are real people. They are worthy of our respect for that reason alone. I respect them for another reason. They were willing to sacrifice their lives for what they believed.”
Kiyabu said her book will talk about her experience with “this complex man and his very complex theology, and my way of preserving the memory of my friends who are no more in this life.”
She said the story will be told “with respect for David Koresh, his remaining followers, and others associated with the group.”
The life of Koresh, the Branch Davidians, and events at Waco were fully documented. “We now know what happened, according to them, that led to the events of February 28, 1993 through April 19, 1993,” Kiyabu said.
Kiyabu said she believes the federal agents set the fire to the Waco compound. Perhaps, now, “there may be enough evidence to re-open our case, and demand the right to present the evidence that was withheld from juries in both the civil trial and the appeal” regarding the horrible face-off in Waco 26 years ago.
Kiyabu noted that only about a few books have been written by people who actually lived as Branch Davidians.
“The only women who have published written accounts of their experiences have been Bonnie Haldeman (David’s mother), Sheila Martin, Grace Adams, and Poia Alpha,” she said. “There are only two women who can write from the perspective of being a part of the House of David and who had his children: Robyn Bunds and me. Robyn has not published her story. That leaves my voice as the first one to speak on behalf of the House of David.”