Still, many Americans heard his name for the first time in 1993, when federal authorities suspected his group of weapons violations, leading the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to obtain a search and arrest warrant to raid their compound, the Mount Carmel Center, outside Waco, Texas.
That operation ended in gunfire — and the deaths of four government agents and six Branch Davidians.
For the next 51 days, the FBI and ATF engaged in a standoff with the compound, while news trucks recorded their every move. Finally, on April 19, 1993, the FBI launched an assault and initiated a tear gas attack, hoping to force the Branch Davidians out of their cover.
It’s unclear what happened next, but a fire engulfed Mount Carmel Center.
When the smoke cleared, 75 members of the Branch Davidian cult were found dead, including 25 children. Koresh was also killed. He was 33.
More than two decades later, some of Koresh’s former followers are still waiting for his resurrection.
They will speak out on Saturday night’s episode of docuseries Murder Made Me Famous on the Reelz Channel.
“We believed that David was given a great truth, a great understanding,” Waco survivor Sheila Martin tells the show. “We saw him as a prophet — we saw him even a little closer to God than even a prophet.”
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
“He wasn’t eloquent; he didn’t speak well,” admits former member Clive Doyle. “There was nothing about him per se that would attract him to any of us. But somehow he reached each one, at every level.”
Some of the members still believe that Koresh will return triumphantly from death to lead them again.
“David came to give us a message and a hope,” Martin says. “We hope to see him again. Our regret is only that we didn’t serve God better. ”
Murder Made Me Famous combines reenactments, exclusive interviews and never-before-seen photos and video to tell the story of infamous murderers. The show is hosted by PEOPLE Senior Writer Steve Helling.
The David Koresh episode airs Saturday (9 p.m. ET) on the Reelz Channel.