Coroner found gruesome scene inside Amish school; police say gunman prepared for long siege

Wednesday, October 4th 2006, 8:42 am
By: News On 6

QUARRYVILLE, Pa. (AP) _ When the deputy coroner reached the Amish schoolhouse, she found blood on every desk, every window broken and the body of a young girl slumped beneath the chalkboard. Ten children had been shot, five fatally, and the gunman was dead.

``It was horrible. I don't know how else to explain it,'' Amanda Shelley, deputy Lancaster County coroner, said Wednesday. ``I hope to never see anything like that again in my life.''

The gunman, a 32-year-old milk truck driver and father of three, was wearing jeans, a T-shirt and a button-down shirt, Shelley said. He had stationed weapons around the schoolhouse and ``really appeared he had planned on staying there a few hours,'' she said.

Authorities say Charles Carl Roberts IV had started buying supplies for a long siege six days before he stormed the tiny schoolhouse. He made a checklist of what to bring and wrote out four suicide notes, one talking about how he was ``filled with so much hate'' and ``unimaginable emptiness.''

Monday morning, Roberts ran his milk route as usual and walked his own children to school, police said. Then he drove to the Amish school and walked inside.

Teacher Emma Mae Zook, 20, said she immediately sensed something was off.

``He stood very close to me to talk and didn't look in my face to talk,'' she told the Intelligencer Journal of Lancaster in Wednesday's edition. She thought he was saying something about a metal object in the road.

Roberts walked back to his truck, then reappeared at the door with a gun, she said.

He sent the adults and boys out and bound the 10 girls in a row at the chalkboard, police said. He had been inside for about an hour, at one point speaking briefly by cell phone with his wife, when authorities closed in and Roberts opened fire on the girls at close range, fatally wounding five of them and then killing himself.

``We're quite certain, based on what we know, that he had no intention of coming out of there alive,'' State Police Commissioner Jeffrey B. Miller said.

The letters Roberts left behind and that short conversation with his wife indicated Roberts had remembered molesting two relatives 20 years ago and had been tormented by dreams about molesting again.

Roberts had brought lubricating jelly to the schoolhouse and may have planned to sexually assault the Amish girls, Miller said. He said a piece of lumber found in the school had 10 large eyebolts spaced about 10 inches apart, suggesting that Roberts may have planned to truss up the girls.

In the suicide notes, Roberts also said he was haunted by the death of his prematurely born daughter in 1997. The baby, Elise, died 20 minutes after being delivered, Miller said.

Elise's death ``changed my life forever,'' Roberts wrote to his wife. ``I haven't been the same since 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 it seems like everytime we do something fun I think about how Elise wasn't here to share it with us and I go right back to anger.''

The state police commissioner on Tuesday laid out the steps Roberts took in the days and hours leading up to his attack on the West Nickel Mines Amish School in Lancaster County, where the Amish live an 18th-century lifestyle with no automobiles and electricity.

``He certainly was very troubled, psychologically deep down, and was dealing with things that nobody else knew he was dealing with,'' Miller said. But he said Roberts, who was not Amish, did not appear to have anything against the Amish people.

During the standoff, Roberts told his wife in a cell phone call that he molested two female relatives when they were 3 to 5 years old, Miller said. Also, in the note to his wife, Marie, he said he ``had dreams about doing what he did 20 years ago again,'' Miller said.

Police could not immediately confirm Roberts' claim that he molested relatives, and family members knew nothing of molestation in his past. Police located the two relatives and were hoping to interview them.

At the time Roberts' wife received the phone call, she was attending a meeting of a prayer group she led that prayed for the community's schoolchildren.

The crime bore some resemblance to an attack on a high school in Bailey, Colo., where a 53-year-old man took six girls hostage and sexually assaulted them before fatally shooting one girl and killing himself. That attack occurred Sept. 27, the day after Roberts began buying materials for his siege.

At least three prayer services were held Tuesday night, attended by more than 1,650 people, who observed moments of silence, sang hymns and listened to Bible readings.

``Set your troubled hearts to rest,'' the Rev. Douglas Hileman said from the pulpit of Georgetown United Methodist Church, a short distance from the crime scene. ``May we be able to forgive as God has already forgiven us.''

The victims were identified as Naomi Rose Ebersole, 7; Anna Mae Stoltzfus, 12; Marian Fisher, 13; Mary Liz Miller, 8; and her sister Lena Miller, 7. Stoltzfus' sister was among the wounded.

Three other girls were in critical condition and two were in serious condition. They ranged in age from 6 to 13.

Church members visited with the victims' families Tuesday, preparing meals and doing household chores, while Amish elders planned funerals.

Sam Stoltzfus, 63, an Amish woodworker who lives a few miles away from the shooting scene, said the victims' families will be sustained by their faith.

``We think it was God's plan and we're going to have to pick up the pieces and keep going,'' he said. ``A funeral to us is a much more important thing than the day of birth because we believe in the hereafter. The children are better off than their survivors.''