RUTH MOSHER WILL ALWAYS WONDER WHAT LED HER DAUGHTER SHERRI Jewell to David Koresh. The pictures scattered around the house are Sherri: winning a medal in a marathon; accepting her high school diploma; hugging her mother; whom she considered her best friend. "I thought her childhood was pretty happy," says Mosher, "but maybe it wasn't." Sherri, born 43 years ago in Honolulu, the only child of a salesman and schoolteacher, was uprooted when her parents separated and her mother moved with her to California. But "I gave her everything-all the ballet, music, gymnastics, swimming classes-so she could decide what she liked," says Mosher. "We were very close; we didn't have anyone else." When Sherri graduated from Loma Linda University, the same year her mother earned a master's education, the two celebrated with a month-long trip to the Far East.
But Sherri was already drifting into another life. During college she converted to the Seventh-Day Adventist Church; she had been brought up to a Methodist. She went to Michigan to teach high school, and married a student seven years her junior, David Jewell, who was also a Seventh-Day Adventist. Mosher did not trust David. The couple had a daughter, Kiri, but the marriage was turbulent. Mosher found that out when Sherri asked her to spend a month with them. "She was so sad," Mosher recalls. "Sherri was always a very up person. She was having such a hard time."
Sherri and David split up and finally divorced in 1984, Broke and distraught, Sherri took Kiri back to Hawaii. At a Seventh-Day Adventist church there, she was befriended by Marc Breault, a disciple of Vernon Howell's-the leader later known as David Koresh. When Sherri was back and California and living with her mother, Breault "would call her at all hours of the night and talk for hours," says Mosher. Sherri was introduced to Koresh, who thrilled her with his preaching. "Are you telling me you think this guy is the Lamb of God? You think he's Jesus Christ?" her mother asked. "I'm just reading the Bible and trying to find the truth." Sherri always answered. David thinks Sherri wasn't emotionally secure. "The areas of her life that were of greatest importance to her-her religiosity and spirituality-were where she felt the least amount of security," he says. "She had a desperate need to be led."
Once she moved to Waco, Sherri withdrew even more. She was impossible to contact, and she sought to end David's regular visits with Kiri. He grew alarmed when Breault, who had broken with Koresh, warned him and Sherri's mother of the abusive practices going on in the cult. Sherri, Breault said, was one of Koresh's favored wives. The gold pendant worn by Kiri, only 10 was a sign that Koresh planned to take her too as wife.
When Kiri went to Michigan just after Christmas in 1991 to visit her father, he won emergency custody of the child. David recalls Sherri's foreboding words to her daughter when they parted for the last time: "have as much fun as you can in the time that you have left." It was Sherri though, who had only a year to live.