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Archive for Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Police: School gunman told wife of abuse

Death toll in shooting at Amish school now stands at six

October 4, 2006

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— A gunman who invaded a tiny Amish school may have had a plan that went beyond the execution-style slayings of five girls.

Investigators believe Charles Carl Roberts IV, 32, spent nearly a week plotting his takeover of the one-room schoolhouse and may have been planning to sexually assault almost a dozen female students.

Based on the items he brought - including flexible plastic ties, eyebolts and lubricating jelly - "it's very possible that he intended to victimize these children in many ways prior to executing them and killing himself," State Police Commissioner Jeffrey B. Miller said Tuesday. But Roberts "became disorganized" when police arrived and shot himself in the head.

He confided to his wife during the siege that he molested two relatives 20 years ago when he was boy and was tormented by dreams of doing it again, authorities said.

Holding up a copy of the gunman's suicide note at a packed news conference, Miller also suggested that Roberts was haunted by the death of his prematurely born daughter in 1997. The baby, Elise, died 20 minutes after being delivered, Miller said.

Elise's death "changed my life forever," the milk truck driver and father of three wrote to his wife. "I haven't been the same since it affected me in a way I never felt possible. I am filled with so much hate, hate toward myself hate towards God and unimaginable emptyness it seems like everytime we do something fun I think about how Elise wasn't here to share it with us and I go right back to anger."

The state police commissioner described the demons in Roberts' head a day after the shooting rampage shattered the sense of calm in Lancaster County's bucolic Pennsylvania Dutch Country, where the Amish live a peaceful, turn-the-other-cheek existence in an 18th-century world with no automobiles and no electrical appliances.

"He certainly was very troubled psychologically deep down and was dealing with things that nobody else knew he was dealing with," Miller said.

The death toll rose to six Tuesday - including the gunman - when two girls died of their wounds.

During the standoff, Roberts told his wife in a cell phone call from the schoolhouse that he molested two female relatives when they were 3 to 5 years old, Miller said. Roberts would have been around 11 or 12 at the time. Also, in a suicide note left for his family, he said he "had dreams about doing what he did 20 years ago again," Miller said.

Police could not immediately confirm Roberts' claim that he molested two relatives. Family members knew nothing of molestation in his past, Miller said. Police located the two relatives and were hoping to interview them.

Roberts had planned the attack for nearly a week, buying plastic ties from a hardware store on Sept. 26 and several other items less than an hour before entering the school, Miller said.

The crime bore some resemblance to an attack on a high school in Bailey, Colo., where a 53-year-old man took six girls hostage and sexually assaulted them before fatally shooting one girl and killing himself. That attack occurred Sept. 27, the day after Roberts began buying materials for his siege.

Using a checklist that was later found in his pickup truck, Roberts brought to the school three guns, a stun gun, two knives, a pile of wood for barricading the doors, and a bag with 600 rounds of ammunition, police said. He also had a change of clothing, indicating he had planned a long siege, police said.

"We're quite certain, based on what we know, that he had no intention of coming out of there alive," Miller said.

At the time Roberts' wife received the phone call, she was attending a meeting of a prayer group she led that prayed for the community's schoolchildren.

The victims were identified as Naomi Rose Ebersole, 7; Anna Mae Stoltzfus, 12; Marian Fisher, 13; Mary Liz Miller, 8; and her sister Lena Miller, 7. Stoltzfus' sister was among the wounded.

Three other girls were in critical condition and two were in serious condition. They ranged in age from 6 to 13.

Roberts, from the nearby town of Bart, was not Amish and did not appear to have anything against the Amish, Miller said. He said Roberts was bent on killing girls and apparently figured he could succeed at the serene schoolhouse.