Angry mourners eulogize slain doctor $100,000 reward offered

abortion clinic to open

October 27, 1998|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

AMHERST, N.Y. -- Alan Dickison went to the funeral of Dr. Barnett Slepian yesterday afternoon carrying his 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter -- tow-haired children whom Slepian had delivered.

"This man was about children," he said. "This man was not about abortions."

As the FBI announced a $100,000 reward in its investigation of Slepian's slaying and the abortion clinic where he had worked vowed to be open for business this morning, Slepian was eulogized yesterday by a brother and a niece as a kind and dedicated physician who did not let threats and protests stop him from fulfilling what he regarded as his duty to care for women no matter what their needs.

Yet, among the hundreds of mourners who spilled out from a suburban funeral home here, there were many patients like the Dickison family who have resented Slepian's portrayal in television and newspaper accounts as merely an abortion doctor. Such a depiction, they said, was feeding into the agenda of the fierce antagonists of abortion.

"They raise the stakes and then some extremist shoots him in the back in the middle of the night," said Dickison, a registered nurse.

Slepian, he said, was a doctor who cared for women through pregnancy, infertility, childbirth and menopause. His murder, he and other mourners said, has deprived the Buffalo area of a doctor who brought hundreds of babies into the world as well as attended to women who for medical or personal reasons could not carry a fetus to term.

Marcia Sperduti, weeping as she walked toward the funeral home, told how Slepian had saved his son's life by rushing to perform a Caesarean on her when her son's umbilical cord became knotted in the womb.

"Thank God I'm not having any more children, because Slepian is not alive to deliver them," she said.

As Slepian's coffin was taken away for burial, the FBI announced it was offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to the capture of his killer. But law enforcement officials said on condition of anonymity that little information had been developed about the killer.

Ballistic tests have not yet been completed on the bullet, fired by a sniper with a high-powered rifle from a wooded field behind Slepian's suburban home.

Officials said they are proceeding on the theory that this slaying is connected to four other sniper attacks since 1994 on doctors who performed abortions. Three of the attacks took place in Canada and one in Rochester, and there were injuries, though none of those doctors was killed. The FBI and the Amherst police department have spoken to Canadian investigators about Friday's shooting.

The shootings are being investigated for links to groups in Canada that celebrate Nov. 11 as Remembrance Day for the unborn. The shootings have all occurred near that date.

Slepian, 52, who had a private practice, but also was the primary doctor at the only abortion clinic in downtown Buffalo, was shot in the back Friday night as he stood chatting with his wife, Lynne, and 15-year-old son, Andrew, in the kitchen of their Amherst home.

Pub Date: 10/27/98

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