Killer's portrait begins to emerge

Suicide note mentioned dreams of hurting children

Police think man intended to abuse girls before killings


October 04, 2006|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,Sun Reporter

NICKEL MINES, PA. -- As the Amish community here prepared yesterday to bury five girls killed in a school shooting, police tried to get inside the mind of the gunman, a milk truck driver who confessed to his wife during the siege that he sexually molested two young relatives 20 years ago and had been having recurring dreams about hurting children again.

In chilling detail, police described how gunman Charles C. Roberts IV, 32, prepared for the school attack, gathering a cache of weapons, lumber, plastic ties, a change of clothing and other materials. Police said it was clear that Roberts intended to remain inside the one-room schoolhouse for an extended period, perhaps so that he could sexually abuse his captives.

"It's very possible that he intended to victimize the children in many ways prior to executing them and killing himself," said State Police Commissioner Col. Jeffrey B. Miller.

Miller said investigators found tubes of K-Y Jelly, widely used as a sexual lubricant, in a box that Roberts brought to the school. They also found a board with 10 eyebolts attached to it about 10 inches apart.

Ten girls remained inside the school after Roberts let 15 boys and three women leave. The teacher and a 9-year-old girl escaped unharmed.

Miller said investigators think that Roberts, who was not Amish, intended to secure the 10 girls, whose feet were bound, to the board, "with their backs turned." But the teacher had called police and Roberts "became disorganized when the police arrived," Miller said.

Roberts lined the girls up against a blackboard and fatally shot five of them, ages 7 to 13. He killed himself before police could enter the school.

Five girls wounded

Five other girls, ages 6 to 13, were wounded and were being treated at area hospitals.

One of the girls who were hospitalized was shot in the back and shoulder and is expected to survive, Miller said. He said he was praying for the others, who were shot at close range in the back of the head.

Miller identified the girls who were killed as Naomi Rose Ebersole, 7; Anna Mae Stoltzfus, 12; Marian Fisher, 13; and sisters Mary Liz Miller, 8, and Lena Miller, 7.

Anna's sister Sarah Ann, 8, was wounded in the attack, police said. A sister of Marian was also wounded, a family friend said. A third Fisher sister who attended the school, Emma Fisher, escaped with the help of the women whom Roberts allowed to leave.

Police also released new details about Roberts, including information that he might have sexually molested two female relatives when he was an adolescent and they were ages 3 to 5.

Roberts alluded to the molestation in a suicide note to his wife and confessed to her during a cell phone conversation shortly before he started shooting about 11 a.m.

Miller said the two girls, now women, had not been contacted but that police had interviewed both sides of Roberts' family and that no one knew of any molestation. Miller said the two women might not remember any abuse because they were so young at the time.

None of the Amish girls was sexually assaulted Monday. Miller said police might have arrived at the school sooner than Roberts expected. Roberts called 911 and warned police not to approach the schoolhouse or he would open fire, but he started shooting the girls before officers could pull back.

"He intended to go into this school ... and he had an extended plan to stay," Miller said.

Gunman's baby died

Police who spoke with the gunman's wife, Marie Roberts, and who read the suicide notes he wrote to her and his three children said he also expressed deep sadness over the death of his first-born child, Elise, in 1997. The girl was born prematurely and lived for about 20 minutes, police said.

Roberts wrote in the note to his wife that the girl's death had "affected [him] greatly" that he "was angry with God" and hated himself, Miller said.

"It changed my life forever," Roberts said in the three-page suicide letter to his wife.

The first page, which was shown to the news media, referred to the baby's death. "I haven't been the same since," Roberts wrote. "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."

Details also emerged yesterday about the escape of 9-year-old Emma Fisher, who slipped out the door of the school when Roberts let the boys and women go.

"She managed to get out, and yet she knows something awful happened to everyone else," said Rita Rhoads, a Quarryville, Pa., resident and midwife who delivered many of the children who attend the Amish school.

Rhoads, a Mennonite, said that Emma was talking about the terrifying incident but that she was starting to comprehend that while she had escaped, others had been less fortunate.

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