Amish mourn gunman who killed 5 girls


October 7, 2006

The gravesite of Charles Carl Roberts IV lies next to the memorial for his daughter, Elise Victoria, on Saturday.

GEORGETOWN, Pennsylvania (AP) -- Dozens of Amish neighbors gathered Saturday to mourn the quiet milkman who killed five of their young girls and wounded five more in a brief, unfathomable rampage.

Charles Carl Roberts IV, 32, was buried in his wife's family plot behind a small Methodist church, a few miles from the one-room schoolhouse he stormed Monday.

His wife, Marie, and their three small children looked on as Roberts was buried beside the pink, heart-shaped grave of the infant daughter whose death nine years ago apparently haunted him, said Bruce Porter, a fire department chaplain from Colorado who attended the service.

About half of perhaps 75 mourners on hand were Amish.

"It's the love, the forgiveness, the heartfelt forgiveness they have toward the family. I broke down and cried seeing it displayed," said Porter, who had come to Pennsylvania to offer what help he could. He said Marie Roberts was also touched.

"She was absolutely deeply moved, by just the love shown," Porter said.

Leaders of the local Amish community were gathering Saturday afternoon at a firehouse to decide the future of the schoolhouse, and of the school year itself.

The prevailing wisdom suggested a new school would be built.

"There will definitely be a new school built, but not on that property," said Mike Hart, a spokesman for the Bart Fire Company in Georgetown.

Roberts stormed the West Nickel Mines Amish School on Monday, releasing the 15 boys and four adults before tying up and shooting the 10 girls. Roberts, who had come armed with a shotgun, a handgun and a stun gun, then killed himself.

Roberts' suicide notes and last calls with his wife reveal a man tormented by memories -- so far unsubstantiated -- of molesting two young relatives 20 years ago. He said he was also angry at God for the November 14, 1997, death of the couple's first child, a girl named Elise Victoria who lived for just 20 minutes.

Hart is one of two non-Amish community members serving on a 10-member board that will decide how to distribute donations that have come in following the global news coverage. One stranger walked into the firehouse Saturday morning and dropped a $100 bill in the collection jar.

The condolences flowing into the Bart Post Office filled three large cartons on Saturday -- two for the Amish children and one for the Roberts clan.

"(It's) envelopes, packages, food and a lot of cards," clerk Helena Salerno said.

More than $500,000 has been pledged, some of which is expected to cover medical costs for the five surviving girls. They remain hospitalized, and one is said to be in grave condition.

As the Sabbath Day approached, close friends expected to spend Sunday paying visits to the victims' families.

The funerals for the five slain girls -- Marian Fisher, 13; Anna Mae Stoltzfus, 12; Naomi Rose Ebersol, 7, and sisters Mary Liz Miller, 8, and Lena Miller, 7 -- were held Thursday and Friday.

One Amish woman, an aunt to the Miller girls, set out Saturday to retrieve some of the flowers dropped near the school and bring them to the families.

She was traveling on an Amish scooter and tried to balance two potted plants before going home and returning for the task with a child's small wagon.

The massacre sent out images to the world not only of the violence, but also of a little-known community that chooses to live an insular, agrarian way of life, shunning cars, electricity and other modern conveniences.

By Saturday, the hordes of satellite trucks and stand-up reporters had mostly left the country roads, and a semblance of routine returned. Early in the morning, Amish farmers hauled farm equipment past the boarded-up school.

"It was just getting to be too much," said Jane Kreider, a 48-year-old teacher's aide in Georgetown. "It was just, 'Get out of Dodge, get out of our town and we'll pull together.