George Roden

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George Roden
GeorgeB Roden.jpg
Born(1938-01-17)January 17, 1938
DiedDecember 6, 1998(1998-12-06) (aged 60)
OccupationFormer leader of the Branch Davidians, Sabbath teacher
Known for
  • 1984 Mount Carmel declared Rodenville
  • "The Branch" leadership 1986–1987
  • November 3, 1987, fusillade with Vernon Howell aka David Koresh
Criminal charge(s)Homicide
Criminal penaltyNot guilty by reason of insanity
Criminal statusDeceased
Spouse(s)Amo Bishop Roden
Parent(s)Benjamin Lloyd Roden & Lois Irene Scott

George Roden (January 17, 1938 – December 6, 1998) was an American leader of the Branch Davidian sect, a Seventh-day Adventist splinter group. In 1987, he was evicted from the Mount Carmel Center near Waco, Texas by his rival David Koresh.[2] He was later confined in a Texas mental hospital for a 1989 murder, until his own death.

Branch Davidians[edit]

George Roden was the presumed successor to his mother Lois Roden, who had become president of the Branch Davidians in 1978, when her husband and group leader Benjamin Roden had died. However, Vernon Howell (after 1990, known as David Koresh) arrived at Mount Carmel and began a sexual relationship with Lois Roden who was then in her sixties.[3] Koresh justified their relationship by claiming that God had chosen him to father a child with her, who would be the Chosen One.[4] George Roden felt that his position of leadership was threatened and was deeply offended by Koresh's relationship with his mother. He would file a lawsuit in federal court alleging that Koresh had raped Lois and brainwashed her into turning against him.[3]

In 1984, Koresh left the compound for Palestine, Texas with the vast majority of the group's followers. Roden renamed Mount Carmel "Rodenville". In a videotaped interview Roden led a tour of "Rodenville" using an M1 carbine as a pointer and declared: "It's basically a holy jihad, Khomeini versus Israel, that's what Vernon Howell has with me."[5] Three years later, resentful of Koresh's power over the Davidians, Roden challenged Koresh, saying that whoever could resurrect the dead was the true leader. While Roden prayed over the body of Ana Hughes, who had died two decades earlier, Koresh reported Roden to the McLennan County sheriff's office for corpse abuse. The police told Koresh that he needed evidence to back up his accusation.[3]

On November 3, 1987, Koresh and seven followers returned to Mount Carmel heavily armed and wearing camouflage clothing. They stealthily entered the compound, allegedly to obtain a photograph. However they did not bring a camera, but carried weapons and a map of the grounds with positions to occupy. They found Roden crouched behind a tree with an Uzi submachine gun and a gun battle ensued for several minutes. Roden fled the property with wounds to his hand and chest. Koresh's compatriots were found not guilty after a two-week trial for attempted murder in Waco, and a mistrial was declared in Koresh's case. Their weapons, five .223-caliber semi-automatic rifles, two .22-caliber rifles and two 12-gauge shotguns, which had been confiscated by the police were returned as well.[6] The shoot out at Mount Carmel would be described by The New York Times as a foretelling of the violence of the Waco siege.[3]

Adair murder[edit]

Two years later in 1989, Roden killed his roommate (Wayman Dale Adair, 56) with an axe in Odessa, Texas, and claimed that the man had been sent by Koresh to kill him. Put on trial for murder, he was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and confined to a state mental hospital in North Texas.[7]

Mental illness, escape and death[edit]

On September 30, 1993, Roden walked away from the Big Spring State Hospital and went missing for four days.[8] The Big Spring Police Department was assisted in the search by the Odessa Police Department and the Texas Rangers. He was captured in Abilene, Texas, and returned to Big Spring State Hospital by the Taylor County sheriff's department.[9] In February 1995, the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation's Dangerous Review Board declared Roden "not manifestly dangerous". Seven months later, he fled Big Spring for three days before being caught outside the Israeli consulate in New York City, where he reportedly caused a disturbance after being denied a visa to Israel. Roden, who claimed to be Jewish, said hitmen trained by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) were trying to kill him.[10] On December 8, 1998, Roden again escaped and was found dead of a heart attack on the grounds of Big Spring State Hospital, where he was confined at the time.[11][12]


  1. ^ Smyrl, Vivian Elizabeth. "Elk, Texas". Handbook of Texas. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved June 30, 2012.
  2. ^ Pitts, William L. "Davidians and Branch Davidians". Handbook of Texas - Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved November 25, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d Warning of Violence Was Unheeded After Cult Leader's Gun Battle in '87 Adam Nossiter The New York Times March 10, 1993
  4. ^ Wilson, Colin (2000), The Devil's Party, London: Virgin Books, ISBN 1-85227-843-9
  5. ^ Extracts included in Waco: The Rules of Engagement, 1997 documentary by director William Gazecki and producer Michael McNulty. The 135 minute cable TV version includes footage of Roden not included in the theatrical release.
  6. ^ No Martyrs in Waco Sam Verhovek The New York Times July 9, 1995
  7. ^ A Fight in Texas for the Homeland of a Sect Sam Howe Verhovek The New York Times Dec 6, 1994
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-08-30. Retrieved 2013-11-27.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ Ex-Waco cult leader returned to hospital Austin American-Statesman October 2, 1993
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-08-30. Retrieved 2013-11-27.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "George Roden found dead". The Robesonian. December 8, 1998. Retrieved February 25, 2011.
  12. ^ Ex-Cult Leader Who Fled Mental Hospital Is Dead The New York Times December 8, 1998

See also[edit]