Archive for Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Abortion killing has ties to earlier Tiller shooting

July 28, 2009

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— The woman convicted of shooting Dr. George Tiller in both arms in 1993 is on a list released Monday of potential witnesses against the man now charged with killing the Kansas abortion provider.

Rachelle “Shelley” Shannon, who 16 years ago used her trial to express her violent anti-abortion views, has resurfaced as a potential witness in the government’s case against the Kansas City, Mo., man suspected of killing Tiller. Her name is among 220 on the state’s witness list.

Scott Roeder, 51, is charged with one count of first-degree murder in Tiller’s death and two counts of aggravated assault for allegedly threatening two ushers who tried to stop him during the May 31 melee at the doctor’s church.

Tiller, 67, had been the target of relentless protests for most of the 36 years that he performed abortions at his Wichita clinic, where he practiced as one of the nation’s few providers of late-term abortions. His clinic was also bombed in 1986.

Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston, who is leading the case against Roeder, prosecuted Shannon in the 1993 shooting.

Prosecutors said they anticipate that testimony at the preliminary hearing starting today will take at least one day. If the judge finds enough evidence to proceed to trial, Roeder would then enter his plea.

It is unknown how many people or even whom the prosecution will actually call to testify at the hearing. Most of those on their witness list are law enforcement officials. The judge endorsed the list Friday.

Whether Shannon will be called to testify at Roeder’s preliminary hearing or his eventual trial is also uncertain. Roeder told The Kansas City Star that he visited Shannon while she was jailed in Topeka.

But Shannon may not remember those jailhouse visits from Roeder nearly two decades ago.

Linda Wolfe, an anti-abortion advocate from McMinnville, Ore., and a friend of Shannon, said Shannon wrote her a letter shortly after Roeder’s arrest asking her: “Did I know him?”

Shannon is in federal prison in Minnesota, and will not be released until 2018.

The prosecution’s star witnesses are far more likely to be the two ushers — Gary Hoepner and Keith Martin — who allegedly tried to stop the shooter.

Roeder’s ex-wife, Lindsey, and his son, Nicholas, are on the state’s witness list. So is Tiller’s wife, Jeanne, who was singing in the choir when her husband was shot.

Operation Rescue President Troy Newman is listed as a potential witness, along with the group’s policy adviser, Cheryl Sullenger. Both have publicly condemned Tiller’s shooting.

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