"It changed my life forever," Roberts said in the three-page suicide letter to his wife.
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.
Rhoads said Emma was seated closest to the school's door and had not been shackled when Roberts ordered the boys and women out. Rhoads said that as the women left, one of them whispered to her that she should "tiptoe" out with them. The women put the girl between them so that Roberts wouldn't see her.
Marie Roberts has not appeared in public. She released a statement Monday in which she praised her husband as an exceptional father who doted on their young children. She told police that there was no indication that her husband was under mental duress and that he was relaxed in the days before the shootings.
A brother-in-law, who worked with Roberts at Northwest Food Products in East Earl, Pa., said that the usually talkative Roberts had been withdrawn recently.
The principal of Bart-Colerian Elementary School, where Roberts' two oldest children attend kindergarten and second grade, said Roberts and his wife, who lived in the village of Georgetown in Lancaster County, were involved parents who wanted their children to receive a high-quality education.
'Loving ... family'"They were a loving, active family," said Principal Thomas E. Brackbill. "They valued their children's education."
Before the start of the school day yesterday, Brackbill said, faculty members talked about how to explain "execution-style" killings to the children.
Roberts was armed with a rifle, a shotgun, a semiautomatic handgun and a stun gun, which he bought over a period of time from local gun shops, police said.
The stun gun was bought at the Village Arms Gun Shop in nearby Gap, Pa., Miller said. It is a misdemeanor in Pennsylvania to use a stun gun in the commission of a crime, he said.
An employee at the gun shop declined to comment yesterday on the sale of the stun gun to Roberts.
Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell was among those expressing concern and support for the Amish families whose children were killed.
"I ask all Pennsylvanians to keep the families and the victims in their prayers and to keep this fine community in their prayers," said Rendell, who addressed the national news media at a news briefing.
The governor said flags at the state Capitol in Harrisburg and in Lancaster County would be flown at half-staff until the funerals of the children, which are expected within the next few days. The Amish religion requires that bodies be buried within three days of death, but the county coroner has yet to release the bodies.
Conference plannedPresident Bush, alarmed by recent attacks at public schools across the country, plans to bring education and law enforcement experts together for a conference on school violence, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.
Three schools have been hit by deadly attacks in the past week. Last Wednesday, a man took six girls hostage in Colorado and sexually assaulted them before fatally shooting one girl and killing himself. On Friday, a 15-year-old Wisconsin student shot and killed his principal.
Perino said no date, location or other details about the conference were ready to be announced. It was not clear whether Bush would attend.
"The president is deeply saddened and troubled by the recent school violence and shootings that have taken place in different communities across America," Perino said. "It breaks America's collective heart when innocent children who are at school to learn are violently taken hostage and cut down in their own schools."
Lynn Anderson wrote this article in Baltimore with reporting from Sun reporters Laura Barnhardt, Justin Fenton and Josh Mitchell, all in Nickel Mines.