Wichita Prosecutors have presented more than 100 pieces of evidence in the trial of the man accused of killing Kansas abortion provider Dr. George Tiller. But the weapon used to kill Tiller has not been among them because it never has been found.
On Tuesday, however, prosecutors drilled a series of law enforcement officials and gun shop and pawn shop employees who testified about how defendant Scott Roeder bought a .22-caliber handgun and ammunition at a Lawrence pawn shop the week before the shooting and test fired the weapon with his brother the day before Tiller was killed.
Roeder, 51, of Kansas City, Mo., has publicly admitted he shot and killed Tiller but pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and aggravated assault charges.
Prosecutors may wrap up their case as soon as today, with the defense set to begin Thursday. Defense attorneys have been expected to try for a voluntary manslaughter conviction, which carries considerably less jail time, by arguing Roeder believed Tiller’s killing would save unborn children.
The defense team has so far cross-examined several witnesses, though only briefly on Tuesday’s testimony about Roeder’s purchase of a weapon.
Prosecutors showed videos of Roeder buying the handgun and ammunition and picking up the weapon at the shop after his background check cleared.
A pawn shop employee testified that when Roeder’s background check was submitted, he initially received a “delayed” status, which meant Roeder couldn’t take the gun with him. Roeder was approved a day later.
A Kansas highway patrol trooper also testified that Roeder’s brother, David Roeder, had contacted the patrol to say Scott Roeder had been to his brother’s property outside Topeka the Saturday before the shooting because he wanted to test fire a gun he had recently bought.
FBI special agent Michael Miller said David Roeder “feared his fingerprints were on the weapon.”
Also Tuesday, prosecutors showed a video of Roeder’s arrest as he fled on Interstate 35, about an hour and a half north of Wichita. The video from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department showed a cooperative Roeder ordered by deputies out of his car with his hands up. Three officers approached Roeder with their guns drawn as he backed toward them and was ordered to lie on the ground.
Roeder’s arrest photos and photos of apparent blood stains on his black athletic shoes and pants leg also were shown.
In other testimony Tuesday, Lt. Ken Landwehr, a homicide detective for the Wichita police department, testified that Tiller sustained a contact wound, meaning the gun used to kill him was put up against his head.
Prosecutors again showed jurors graphic crime scene photos, including of Tiller laying on the floor of the church after he had been shot, his face largely obscured by blood. A crime scene investigator detailed finding ammunition and a 7-inch dagger in Roeder’s car hours after the shooting.
A Wichita motel clerk testified that Roeder checked in the evening before the shooting and checked out uneventfully about 9:30 the next morning.
Outside the courtroom, a war of words appeared to begin brewing between anti-abortion activists when Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry announced in an e-mail he was coming to the trial “as a voice for babies who perished at George Tiller’s hand.”
But Operation Rescue, which is based in Wichita and has condemned Tiller’s slaying, said Terry hasn’t been affiliated with the group for more than 17 years.
Operation Rescue says Terry has isolated himself from the pro-life community because of his “extremism, fringe actions and bizarre media stunts.”
Terry’s statement said he was traveling with members of Insurrecta Nex, which has called for Roman Catholic bishops to deny Holy Communion to lawmakers who support publicly financed abortion in the national health care bill.