The roots of the Branch Davidians date back to 1934, when a disgruntled Seventh-day Adventist split with the church over interpretations of biblical teachings. Dissidence and even violence have continued in the group over the years.
Members of the sect were involved Sunday in a shootout near Waco as federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents tried to serve search and arrest warrants on Vernon Howell, the sect's current leader.Howell, who claims to be Christ, has led the sect since the mid-1980s.
The sect began when Victor Houteff, a Bulgarian immigrant who joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1918, split from church leaders when they accused him of disrupting an Adventist Sabbath school with his dissident views. The sect moved from Los Angeles to Waco in 1935, the year after it began.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church, which lists worldwide membership of more than 5 million, has since renounced the offshoot and Howell.
Baylor University religion professor Bill Pitts, who has written several papers on the Branch Davidians, said Houteff's theological views - especially his interpretation of the book of Revelation - did not fit the views of the Seventh-day Adventists.
Several people followed Houteff when he left the church, seeing him as as an "inspired prophet," Pitts wrote.
In 1942, Houteff changed the group's name to Davidian Seventh-day Adventists because he believed the restoration of David's kingdom in Palestine was imminent, Pitts said.
When Houteff died in 1955, his wife, Florence, assumed power. That same year, she came out with her own religious predictions, saying that the new kingdom would come April 22, 1959.
Hundreds of followers joined the group, disposing of their property and businesses. It was estimated to have 1,400 members during this period.
But the April 1959 deadline came and passed and the Davidians splintered, with most members going with a rival prophet, Ben Roden, who called his group the Branch Davidians.
When Roden died in 1978, his wife, Lois, took over leadership. She led the Davidians until another split in 1984, when members were torn between Lois Roden's son, George, and an up-and-coming leader, Vernon Howell. Howell later took most of the members with him.
Continued rivalry between the two men led to violence, including a 1987 gun battle at the group's compound that led to attempted murder charges against Howell and seven others.
The seven others were acquitted, and a mistrial was declared in the case of Howell. Charges against him were later dismissed.
In 1989, George Roden was charged with the murder of a 56-year-old Odessa man. The following year, he was found not guilty by reason of insanity and sent to a state mental hospital.