Killer's portrait begins to emerge

Sun Reporter

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.

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 planned President 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@baltsun.comLynn Anderson wrote this article in Baltimore with reporting from Sun reporters Laura Barnhardt, Justin Fenton and Josh Mitchell, all in Nickel Mines.

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