A clearer portrait has now emerged of the man who allegedly took it into his hands to play judge, jury, and executioner of George Tiller, the foremost provider of late-term abortions in the United States. The portrait reveals a mentally disturbed, long-time anarchist and convicted felon, who appears to have succumbed to the influence of an anti-abortion domestic terrorist group and believed that he had to commit murder in order to stave off the wrath of God.
Just three hours after Tiller was gunned down in the foyer of Reformation Lutheran Church, where he had been ushering, law enforcement apprehended Scott P. Roeder, 51, of Merriam, Kansas, traveling the speed limit on the I-35 back to his home. He was officially charged with the murder today.
Tiller’s murderer had shot the abortionist once and threatened two other men in the church, before departing the scene of the crime in a powder-blue 1993 Ford Taurus, which deputies checked out as belonging to Roeder. After Sherriff’s deputies intercepted Roeder, he surrendered to them without incident and was taken back to Wichita for questioning.
However in the aftermath of the murder and subsequent arrest, information has surfaced that shows Roeder to be a mentally unstable individual, who as early as the 1990s adopted quasi-biblical beliefs to compensate for his moral failings, and fell under the influence of two violent radical organizations, especially a fringe anti-abortion group far outside the sphere of the pro-life community. This group is the so-called Army of God, a group that advocates domestic terror, violence, and murder against abortion facilities and those who work there.
The Anarchist Origins of Scott P. Roeder
Roeder’s first links with violence and terrorism began with his association with the anti-government “Freemen” movement. The Freemen claim that the individual has sovereignty above the government, making them largely exempt from laws, regulations and taxes. Among other things, they began operating their own legal system, and printing their own paper currency independent of state and federal governments.
Roeder’s ex-wife, Lindsay, told the Kansas City Star that Roeder began to break down in the early 90s, when he began having trouble paying bills and acting normal in daily life.
"One day someone told him that paying income taxes isn’t constitutional," Lindsey Roeder told the Star. "And he realized if he stopped paying his taxes he could pay all of his bills. From there things just started like a snowball. He became very obsessive."
In April 1996, while the Freemen were engaged in the first month of an armed 81-day stand-off with the FBI at their Jordan, Montana compound, Roeder was pulled over and arrested by Shawnee county deputies for driving without a valid license plate. Instead Roeder had a tag reading, "Sovereign private property. Immunity declared by law. Non-commercial American.”
Roeder had been on an FBI list of Freemen, and when a deputy searched the trunk of his car, he found weapons, ammunition, a gas mask , and bomb-making materials: a fuse cord, a pound of black powder, two nine-volt batteries, and a switch for a bomb-trigger.
Roeder was then charged and subsequently convicted of felonious possession and use of explosives, driving with a suspended license, and having neither vehicle registration nor car insurance.
Following his conviction, Roeder was released on probation with intensive monitoring, and he was required to have no more contact with anarchist anti-government groups that advocated violence. Yet, Roeder soon violated parole in 1997 by refusing to pay his taxes and give his employer a social security number, which earned him a 16 month sentence in state prison.
However, in December of that year, the Kansas Court of Appeals, threw out his conviction on the technical grounds that the officer arresting Roeder had improperly searched his car.
Schizophrenia, Moral Confusion, and an Obsession with Abortion
Throughout this time, Roeder had been suffering with a schizophrenic mental disorder, and his obsession with abortion had brought him into contact with extreme anti-abortion activists, who adopt an “ends justify the means” ethic toward abortion, rejecting the moral values of the pro-life community.
Roeder had fallen in step with the ideology of the Army of God movement, which claims the murder of abortion providers constitutes “justifiable homicide” and praises the murderers of abortionists as “American heroes” on its website.
"I know that he believed in justifiable homicide," Regina Dinwiddie, an acquaintance of Roeder’s, told the Kansas City Star. Dinwiddie herself had signed the first and second “defensive action statements” advocating the murder of abortionists as “justifiable homicide,” and her home was featured in an HBO documentary on the AOG called “Soldiers in the Army of God.” Dinwiddie told the Star that in 1996, Roeder walked into the Kansas City Planned Parenthood abortion facility, demanded to see abortionist Dr. Robert Crist, stared at him for 45 seconds, then said, “I’ve seen you now” before turning to walk away.
Roeder also enmeshed himself with the AOG affiliated Prayer and Action News, a newsletter edited by David Leach, which also advocated the murder of abortionists as “justifiable homicide.” Leach had reprinted the 3rd edition of the Army of God manual in 1996, which included bomb-making instructions, and advocated acid attacks and murder among its “99 Covert Ways to Stop Abortion,” a direct violation of a ban by the Justice Department, which was confiscating all copies of the book.
Roeder met with Leach in Topeka. Leach had been visiting Rachelle “Shelley” Shannon, who attempted to assassinate Tiller at his abortion facility in 1993.
"I met him once, and he wrote to me a few times," Leach told the Kansas City Star. "I remember that he was sympathetic to our cause, but I don’t remember any details."
However, among the details that the Star reported Leach did remember, was Roeder’s obsession with government conspiracies. He said that Roeder would demonstrate how to remove the magnetic strip from a five dollar bill. "He said it was to keep the government from tracking your money," Leach added.
Over the years, Roeder’s mental instability and obsession with anarchist groups and abortion ground down those people closest to him. Roeder’s first marriage of ten years ended in divorce after his 1996 arrest and conviction, leading him to estrangement from his now 22-year old son, Nick. Roeder’s ex-wife Lindsay told ABC News that Roeder had little contact with her son, seeing him once every six weeks, and that her son had no interest in seeing him.
In later years, Roeder fathered a child by another woman, who fought to retain sole custody of her child with her current husband. The woman expressed grave concern for the safety and welfare of her daughter to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, citing both Roeder’s “past conduct and association with anti-government organizations [which] is ongoing” and “chronic mental disability of schizophrenia for which he takes no medication.”
The court denied her request despite the plea that her little girl was living in an intact household with the only father and mother she ever knew.
The Lead-Up and Aftermath of the Murder
Preliminary reports from law enforcement indicate that Tiller’s murderer acted alone. The investigation, however, continues to examine Roeder’s background and activities. In the last several years leading up to Tiller’s assassination, the mentally disturbed Roeder expressed more violent agitation and a belief that divine wrath would befall the United States unless Tiller were stopped.
“Bleass [sic] everyone for attending and praying in May to bring justice to Tiller and the closing of his death camp,” says a May 19 post attributed to him on Operation Rescue’s website. “Sometime soon, would it be feasible to organize as many people as possible to attend Tillers church (inside, not just outside) to have much more of a presence and possibly ask questions of the Pastor, Deacons, Elders and members while there? Doesn’t seem like it would hurt anything but bring more attention to Tiller.”
Elsewhere, on a separate website, Roeder had posted in September 2007, “It seems as though what is happening in Kansas could be compared to the ‘lawlessness’ which is spoken of in the Bible. Tiller is the concentration camp ‘Mengele’ of our day and needs to be stopped before he and those who protect him bring judgement [sic] upon our nation.”
Operation Rescue, the Wichita-based leader of prayerful protests outside Tiller’s facility, has been quick to point out that Roeder is “not affiliated with this organization” and that thousands of persons, including Roeder and pro-abortion activists, have posted on its open website.
“Scott Roeder has never been a member, contributor, or volunteer with Operation Rescue,” OR president Troy Newman said in a statement.
“We deplore the criminal actions with which Mr. Roeder is accused,” said Newman. “The pro-life ethic is to value all human life from the moment of conception until natural death.”
Operation Rescue had expelled Rev. Donald Spitz, the founder of the AOG website, in 1993, after Spitz had praised the murderer of Pensacola, Florida abortionist Dr. David Gunn.
In a days leading up to his alleged murder of Tiller, Roeder made one last visit on Friday to his estranged son. His ex-wife told the Kansas City Star that the event was unusual since Roeder had embraced an Old Testament Sabbath observance from Friday to Saturday.
Tiller was killed just over two months after a Kansas jury had voted to acquit the abortionist of 19 misdemeanor charges relating to violations of Kansas’s ban on late-term abortions. The jury had acquitted Tiller largely on the technicality that Ann Kristin Neuhaus, the abortionist signing off on his late-term abortions, was not a full-time employee of his, despite their close financial affiliation.
The political consequences of George Tiller’s murder are only now beginning to unfold. However, if past is prologue, this latest Army of God murder, the first murder of an abortionist in eleven years, will be seized upon by abortion advocates to hamper the momentum of the pro-life movement. Immediately after the murder, abortion supporters began to pain the whole pro-life movement with the brush of “terrorist” and “extremist.”