Suspect in killing of Dr. George Tiller railed against abortion
Tuesday, June 2, 2009 -
WICHITA, Kansas — The family life of the man accused of killing a well-known doctor who performed later-term abortion began unraveling more than a decade ago when he got involved with anti-government groups, and then became "very religious in an Old Testament, eye-for-an-eye way," his former wife said.
Scott Roeder, 51, remained jailed today on suspicion of murder, accused of shooting abortion provider George Tiller to death on Sunday as the doctor served as an usher at his Lutheran church in Wichita. It was not clear Monday if Roeder had a lawyer.
"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." He moved out in 1994, and the couple divorced in 1996. They have one son, now 22.
"He started falling apart," Lindsey Roeder told The Associated Press on Monday. "I had to protect myself and my son."
Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston was reviewing evidence in expectation of filing charges against Roeder Tuesday.
Roeder’s brother said he suffered from mental illness at various times in his life.
"However, none of us ever saw Scott as a person capable of or willing to take another person’s life. Our deepest regrets, prayers and sympathy go out to the Tiller family during this terrible time," his brother, David, said in a statement.
Roeder’s mental health and anti-government activities were also factors in a custody battle in Pennsylvania, The Kansas City Star reported Tuesday. Roeder sued in 2003 for the right to visit a girl he said was his daughter. The child was born in 2002. But the child’s mother fought Roeder’s request, saying he would not be a good influence because his association with "anti-government organizations is ongoing."
A 2005 court ruling also said Roeder had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and did not take medication, "which may pose a clear and present danger to the minor child," according to The Star.
Lindsey Roeder said from her home in a Kansas City suburb that the early years of the marriage were good and that Scott Roeder worked in an envelope factory. But she said he moved out of their home after he became involved with the Freemen movement, an anti-government group that discouraged the paying of taxes.
He then became involved with a church based on the Old Testament, but she said she did not know much about its beliefs. She thought it was strange when he showed up Friday to take their son out to dinner and to see the movie "Star Trek."
"That’s his Sabbath," she said. "So we wouldn’t usually see him on a Friday or Saturday. ... I think now, that he was saying goodbye."
In 1996, Roeder was arrested in Topeka after being stopped by sheriff’s deputies because his car lacked a valid license plate. Instead, it bore a tag declaring him a "sovereign" and immune from state law. In the trunk, deputies found materials that could be assembled into a bomb.
He was convicted and sentenced to two years on probation and ordered to stop associating with violent anti-government groups. But the Kansas Court of Appeals overturned his conviction in 1997, ruling that authorities seized evidence against Roeder during an illegal search of his car.
The appeals court ruling appeared to energize him, Lindsey Roeder said.
"When they let him out because of the illegal search that made him even more self-righteous. He would say ’See, I’m right, and you’re wrong,’" she said.