WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - An activist abortion opponent was charged
Tuesday with first-degree murder in the death of late-term abortion
provider Dr. George Tiller, and the prosecutor said the evidence in
the case ruled out the death penalty.
Scott Roeder, 51, was shown via a video link from the Sedgwick
County Jail. He fiddled with the charging documents on a podium in
front of him, and said "OK" three times as Judge Ben Burgess read
the charges and explained the court process.
Burgess ordered Roeder to be held without bond and said he was
not allowed to communicate with Tiller's family or two witnesses he
allegedly assaulted. The judge told Roeder that he would be
assigned a public defender.
"And I'll obviously be hearing from one of those lawyers
between now - or do you know how long it will be before I hear from
one of those lawyers?" Roeder said.
Within two days, the judge answered to Roeder's only question in
the brief appearance. A preliminary hearing is set for June 16.
Attorney Mark Orr with the Sedgwick County public defender's
office said it had just been the assigned the case and had not had
a chance to talk to Roeder yet.
If convicted on the murder charge, Roeder would face a mandatory
life sentence and would not be eligible for parole for at least 25
Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston would not
release any details of the crime at a news conference after the
hearing, but said evidence against Roeder ruled out the death
Kansas law requires that special circumstances exist for a
defendant to be eligible for the death penalty. Such circumstances
include the killing of a law officer, more than one person or a
victim kidnapped for ransom or rape, or killed in murder for hire.
In March, Roeder attended at least one day of Tiller's trial on
misdemeanor counts, Operation Rescue president Troy Newman said
Tuesday. Tiller was acquitted on 19 counts of failing to obtain a
second, independent opinion before performing late-term abortions.
Roeder wore an anti-abortion T-shirt, which a court officer had
him cover up.
"He was some guy on the fringe," Newman said. "Nobody knew
him all that well other than his name."
Roeder is accused of shooting Tiller to death Sunday at the
doctor's Lutheran church in Wichita as he was serving as an usher.
Roeder also was charged with aggravated assault for allegedly
threatening two people who tried to stop him.
Roeder was arrested about three hours after the shooting near
Gardner, about 170 miles northeast of Wichita. His last known
address is in Kansas City, Mo.
Roeder's family life began unraveling more than a decade ago
when he got involved with anti-government groups, his former wife,
Lindsey Roeder, told The Associated Press.
"The anti-tax stuff came first, and then it grew and grew. He
became very anti-abortion," said Lindsey Roeder, who was married
to Scott Roeder for 10 years but "strongly disagrees with his
beliefs." They divorced in 1996 and have one son, now 22.
Roeder's brother, David, also said he suffered from mental
illness at various times in his life.
Someone using the name Scott Roeder posted comments about Tiller
on anti-abortion Web sites, including one that referred to the
doctor as the "concentration camp Mengele of our day" - a
reference to the Nazi doctor who performed ghastly medical
experiments on Jews and others at Auschwitz. The posting said
Tiller "needs to be stopped before he and those who protect him
bring judgment upon our nation."
Tiller's death has focused attention on the availability of
third-trimester abortions, as the few remaining providers age with
little interest from new doctors to offer such services.
Tiller's family says there were no plans yet to reopen his
Wichita clinic, despite earlier comments from Dr. LeRoy Carhart,
one of four physicians who worked at the clinic.
Funeral services for Tiller are planned for 10 a.m. Saturday at
College Hill United Methodist Church.