c. 2006 Religion News Service
NICKEL MINES, Pa. _ The two relatives whom killer Charles Carl Roberts IV said he molested 20 years ago told police on Wednesday (Oct. 4) no such abuse occurred, throwing a new layer of mystery over the gunman’s motive and mental state in the attack on 10 Amish schoolgirls.
Roberts, who committed suicide after shooting the girls in the one-room Amish school Monday, told his wife in his final moments he had molested the two relatives when they were between 3 and 5 years old. In a suicide note, he said he had been dreaming of re-enacting the abuse.
But State Police investigators said that after interviewing the relatives, they were confident no sexual assault occurred. The women are now in their 20s.
“Both of them have no recollection of being sexually assaulted by Roberts,” Trooper Linette Quinn said. “They were absolutely sure they had no sexual contact.”
Quinn added that investigators could not link the 32-year-old truck driver to any other sexual assaults and that he had not previously raised the issue with family members, confidants or spiritual advisers. She declined to say whether investigators suspect Roberts imagined the abuse.
Roberts’ assault on the West Nickel Mines Amish School left five young girls dead. Five others remain hospitalized, three in critical condition.
Authorities said Roberts, carrying plastic ties, lubricating jelly and an assortment of items meant to withstand a siege, likely intended to sexually assault the girls after he ordered adult women and male students out of the school.
But given the new doubts about his claims of molesting family members as a 12-year-old boy, Quinn said investigators will likely never know precisely what prompted Roberts, a father of three, to snap after years of friendly interaction with the Amish.
The Amish community on Wednesday released a statement through the State Police, asking the media to stay away during funerals for the five girls and expressing faith in God.
“We don’t know or understand why this happened, but we do believe God allowed this to happen,” the statement said. “The rest of us, our lives will go on. We will try to work together to support and help families directly involved, knowing that the innocent children likely need help in dealing with this tragedy of their friends, neighbors and schoolmates. We wish everyone God’s blessing and again we thank you.”
From across Lancaster County, hundreds of Amish descended on the homes of the slain girls for simple, somber wakes. Visitors arrived by horse-drawn buggy, by scooter or by foot. Men wore crisp white shirts, a color reserved for mourning, and black coats. Women wore long black dresses and prayer bonnets.
Inside their homes, the girls lay in plain wooden caskets, white dresses on their small frames, in keeping with Amish custom.
“It was very surreal,” said Ron Crawford, a non-Amish writer who lives in nearby Georgetown, Pa., and who attended the wake for Marian Fisher, 13. “Candles lit. People weeping.”
Also killed in the attack were Naomi Rose Ebersole, 7, Anna Mae Stoltzfus, 12, and sisters Mary Liz Miller, 8, and Lena Miller, 7.
Despite the horrors visited on them, members of the Amish community have said they forgive Roberts, and they have prayed for Roberts’ own children and widow.
On Wednesday, the Roberts family reached out to the Amish through an intermediary, seeking permission to visit the families of the dead and wounded to express their sorrow. The request was relayed to Reuben Fisher, a bishop in the Amish church and the grandfather of Marian Fisher, said Rita Rhoads, who has been serving as a liaison between the Amish and the media.
Rhoads said Bishop Fisher accepted the request.
“He was actually very happy they made the offer,” said Rhoads, a midwife in the community who helped to deliver two of the slain girls. “He was hoping they would want this.”
KRE/JL END ORTEGA
(Ralph R. Ortega writes for The Star Ledger in Newark, N.J. Staff writer Mark Mueller contributed to this report.)
Editors: To obtain photos from the Amish schoolhouse shooting, go to the RNS Web site at https://religionnews.com. On the lower right, click on “photos,” then search by subject or slug.