The list of those visiting and communicating with the man accused of
killing Wichita abortion provider George Tiller reads like a who’s who
of anti-abortion militants, reports Judy L. Thomas of the Kansas City Star.
RH Reality Check broke the story last weekend of the removal of federal marshal protection from Nebraska Dr. Leroy Carhart, and is reporting on efforts by advocates, led by Kansas NOW, in Nebraska, Kansas, and surrounding states to counter expected protests and disruptions of the delivery of reproductive health services at Carhart’s Bellevue, Nebraska clinic by Operation Rescue and other organizations planned for late August.
According to Thomas, recent visitors have included two
convicted clinic bombers, the man behind the Army of God Web site and several activists who once signed a declaration that defended the
killing of abortion providers. "And federal agents have now talked to many of them."
Advocates have been calling on the Department of Justice to more aggressively investigate the connections between Roeder and the network of extremist anti-choice advocates like the Army of God, which celebrates clinic bombers and the assassins of reproductive health doctors as "American heroes."
As part of this effort, Kansas NOW and the Feminist Majority Foundation have been working with other pro-choice groups to press the DOJ on the investigation, as well as to urge restoration of the federal marhsal protection removed two weeks ago from Dr. Leroy Carhart, a colleague of the murdered Dr. George Tiller.
The investigation and the issue of domestic terrorism "is definitely a concern," Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist
Majority Foundation told the Star. "This guy has been in the hard-core anti-abortion
circle for a long time, and there has been a pattern of communication
and encouragement among these people."
But, reports Thomas, "those supporting Roeder say there is no conspiracy, no matter who contacts him."
only way they’re going to prove that is if they make one up," said
Jennifer McCoy, who served time in prison for trying to burn down
abortion clinics in Virginia in the 1990s and now lives in Wichita.
McCoy, who has visited Roeder several times in jail, said she called the FBI and told agents that she planned to see Roeder.
told them that they better have a dang good reason if they come ask me
any questions, and that I had every intention of going to visit him and
talk to him," said McCoy, who also attended Roeder’s preliminary
hearing on July 28. "I didn’t know him before, but now I have no
problem visiting him."
FBI and U.S. Justice Department officials declined to provide comment to the Star on the investigation. However, Thomas notes:
federal investigation into the possible existence of a conspiracy began
after Tiller — one of a handful of doctors in the country who performed
late-term abortions — was shot in the foyer of his Wichita church on
May 31 while serving as an usher.
Roeder, 51, of Kansas City, was
charged with first-degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty, and a
trial is scheduled for Sept. 21.
Roeder’s bond was
originally set at $5 million, but a judge raised it to $20 million
after Roeder called the Associated Press on June 7 and warned that
there were "many other similar events planned around the country as
long as abortion remains legal."
The FBI has, however, been asking questions:
Kansas City-area anti-abortion activists told the Kansas City Star that
they have been contacted by the FBI. Among them are Anthony Leake and
Eugene Frye, who have made regular trips to Wichita to visit Roeder.
Frye said he was contacted within a few
days of Tiller’s murder because he and another activist had said in
interviews that they had seen Roeder two weeks before the shooting.
FBI came around and wanted to know what we knew about his activity and
whether he said anything," Frye said. "I knew Scott for 15 years. Never
one time did he ever give any indication that he was going to do
Frye said the idea of a conspiracy "is
just ludicrous" and amounts to "nothing more than a witch hunt." He
said he is visiting Roeder in jail because he wants to help Roeder talk
through using a justifiable homicide defense if that is his wish.
entitled to publicly tell his reason why he did what he did," Frye
said. "Whether he gets found guilty, that’s up to the courts."
Many of Roeder’s "new-found" friends, such as Leake, have been vocal about their support of force against abortion
providers. Leake told Thomas he has forwarded FBI inquiries to his attorney.
He said he didn’t think anyone persuaded Roeder to go after Tiller.
don’t believe anyone in good conscience could encourage someone to take
a step like that," Leake said. "That’s something they’d have to do on
He added, however, that "I support the shooting
of George Tiller as justifiable homicide. I only wish that it would
have happened in 1973, before he was able to murder his first child."
Frye and several other abortion foes have been placed on the prosecution’s witness list in the case.
those being asked questions is Shelley Shannon, the woman who shot and wounded Tiller in 1993.
"Investigators won’t say why she is on the list," writes Thomas, "but the Rev. Donald
Spitz, the director of Pro-Life Virginia, who calls Roeder an "American
hero," said Shannon has been writing letters from prison encouraging
people to support Roeder."
in an interview last month, Roeder told the Star that he had visited
Shannon when she was serving time in prison in Topeka for shooting
Tiller. Shannon is now serving a 20-year sentence for a series of
clinic bombings and arsons in the Pacific Northwest.
Also on the witness list is McCoy,
was sentenced in 1997 to 2 1/2 years in prison for two Virginia clinic
arsons and is now living in Wichita. She told the Star she had been
"sidewalk counseling" outside Tiller’s clinic at least once a week for
McCoy, who used to go by the name Jennifer
Patterson Sperle, said she had visited Roeder several times "and I
intend on going back, because while he’s here, he just needs to know
that people care about what happens to him."
Roeder is also recieving mail from supporters in the extremist anti-choice movement.
the writers are Spitz, who operates the Army of God Web site, which
advocates killing abortion providers; Dave Leach of Iowa, who once
published the Army of God manual, a "how to" book on clinic violence;
and Michael Bray of Ohio, who spent four years in prison for the
firebombings of abortion-related facilities on the East Coast in the
1980s. Bray also wrote the book "A Time to Kill," which offers
religious arguments for using force to stop abortion.
three, who confirmed they’ve written to Roeder," writes Thomas:
signed a 1993
declaration advocating the use of force against abortion providers. The
petition was circulated by Paul Hill, who shot an abortion provider and
his escort to death in Pensacola, Fla., in 1994.
Spitz said he also talks to Roeder by telephone every week.
talk about defending the unborn with the use of force, but we don’t
talk about his particular case," Spitz said. "I sent him some Paul Hill
pamphlets, and recently he requested Mike Bray’s book."
The web of communication among these advocates is clear.
Spitz said he mailed the book to Roeder’s lawyers, but Roeder said they would not give it to him until he went to prison.
Spitz said he had not been contacted recently by any authorities. If they do come calling, he said, he won’t talk to them.
He said there is no conspiracy to commit violence.
"I think people now know not to discuss anything with anybody because they don’t want to implicate others," he said.
said he communicates with Shannon frequently and added that she was
upset to learn she was on the prosecution’s witness list.
whose name also appears on the prosecution’s witness list, told the
Star that he’d been trading letters with Roeder since Roeder’s arrest.
And, Bray told Thomas,
always tell the FBI when they come around, if you want me to help you
find something on such-and-such, I’ll do that," he said. "But if you
want to find someone who’s trying to save babies, I’ve got nothing to
say to you. So they don’t ever bother coming around anymore."
The Star reports that many are sending money and pamphlets to Roeder, including those by Paul Hill, who killed a reproductive health doctor and his volunteer escort and was executed for the murders in 2003.
has sent the Paul Hill pamphlets to numerous people, including his
ex-wife, Lindsey Roeder. In a June 12 letter, Roeder included the Hill
brochure and an article about Tiller’s death called "The Just End to a
Violent, Wicked Man."
The article, written by Dan Holman
of Missionaries to the Pre-Born Iowa, defended Tiller’s murder and
criticized abortion opponents who have condemned the killing.
included was a handwritten note to Roeder from Holman. The note said:
"Hang in there, Scott. Don’t deny the truth or the humanity of the