David Koresh’s Parents, Bonnie Haldeman & Bobby Howell: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

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McLennan County Sheriff

David Koresh

David Koresh’s parents, Bobby Wayne Howell and Bonnie Sue Clark Haldeman, had a dark cloud to live under after their son led the Branch Davidians. More than 70 of his followers, and David himself, died during a raid on the compound near Waco in 1993. Their story is portrayed in a six-part series on Paramount called Waco. David was known for having multiple wives and fathered possibly up to 15 children. But what did his parents think about their son? And where were they during all of this? His mother, Bonnie, had a tumultuous early life, but she was working as a nurse when she died. She was stabbed by her own sister in 2009. Here’s more about David Koresh’s parents.


1. David’s Mother, Bonnie, Was Stabbed to Death By Her Sister

GettyBonnie Haldeman of Houston (R), mother of cult leader David Koresh and attorney Dick DeGuerin, speak with reporters on March 11, 1993.

In 2009, David Koresh’s mother, Bonnie Clark Haldeman, was stabbed to death by her younger sister, Beverly Clark. Bonnie was 64. Her body was found at Beverly’s home in Chandler, near Houston. Police were unsure of the motive. Beverly and Bonnie were the only people in the house when it happened. Beverly was 54.  In 2007, just two years before her death, Bonnie published an autobiography about the Branch Davidians and David Koresh.

Beverly and Bonnie’s niece, Hollie Helrigel, said that Beverly had a long history of mental illness since her teens, Athens Review reported. She said that Bonnie had gone to Beverly’s house that day to take her to the doctor. When Bonnie died, she was working as a pediatric licensed vocational nurse at Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler.


2. David’s Father Abandoned Him Before He Was Born to 14-Year-Old Bonnie

David Koresh was born on August 17, 1959 in Houston, Texas (he was named Vernon Howell when he was born.) His mother, Bonnie Howell, was only 14 when he was born and had dropped out of high school. His father, Bobby, was only about five years older than Bonnie when his son was born. But David never met Bobby. Bobby abandoned Bonnie and David before David was born and married another woman.

When David was young, he eventually tracked down his biological dad, The Washington Post reported. He found him in Houston, where his paternal grandmother, Jean Holub, introduced them. They hugged when they saw each other. His father was a mechanic and a carpenter, and David believed that was where he got his own interest in carpentry. They instantly got along. Bobby passed away in 2008.


3. David’s Mom Married a Violent Man Who Was Abusive to Baby David

Shortly after David (Vernon) was born, Bonnie married a man who had just been released from prison, The Washington Post reported. The marriage did not go well. The man was violent and abusive to Bonnie and even infant David. She stayed with him for about 18 months and then asked her mother, Erline Clark, for help. Erline took David into her home, and had two more children — Sharon and Kenneth. She said that Vernon (David) was a bright and precocious child who called her “Momma.” Her husband, a “macho-man” type, was never affectionate with Vernon, but men weren’t really encouraged to be at the time, she explained.


4. David Always Preferred Living with His Grandparents

When Vernon was 5, Bonnie came back. She had married another man, Roy Haldeman, and wanted Vernon back. Koresh claimed that Haldeman physically disciplined him by “whomped” their tails when they did anything wrong. But Haldeman denied the household was abusive at all.

Vernon/David never got over being moved away from his grandmother when he was young. Every time the Clarks visited, he would beg his “Momma” to let him move back. When they drove away, he would bike after them, trying to catch up. At 14, he was able to move back in with his grandparents in Tyler, Texas. He wanted to live in the shed in the back yard and turned it into a clubhouse. But he was eventually sent back to live with his parents. Over the years, he had trouble with them and they fought a lot.


5. David’s Mother Buried Her Son in an Unmarked Grave

After David Koresh died in the 1993 siege, his mother buried him in an unmarked grave on May 27, the LA Times reported. It was a small ceremony, attended only by four family members, and no clergy were present. They didn’t want the publicity of a funeral. The relatives who were at the funeral were Bonnie, her husband Roy Haldeman, David’s brother Roger Howell, and his maternal grandmother Erline Clark. His mom said about the funeral: “I don’t think I will ever rest in my heart. I didn’t get to see the body, and I’m not even positive that is David there. Who knows?” Koresh had died of a single gunshot wound to the head.

From the video above from 2016, it does appear that he later was given a marked grave next to his mother and his mother’s husband.