Milk Truck-Driver Kills at Least Three Children in Pennsylvania Amish Schoolhouse
Charles Carl Roberts IV, a 32-year-old milk-truck driver carrying three guns and a childhood grudge, stormed a one-room Amish schoolhouse Monday, sent the boys and adults outside, barricaded the doors with two-by-fours and then opened fire on a dozen girls. He murdered at least three of them (although updated accounts now substantiate that five girls have died) before committing suicide, and the death toll might rise. At least seven other children were critically wounded, authorities said. Most of the children had been shot execution-style at point-blank range after being lined up along the chalkboard, their feet bound with wire and plastic ties. The shooting occurred around 10:45 a.m. in Nickel Mines, in the heart of Pennsylvania Amish country. Not long afterwards, Amish women in plain blue smocks and simple white caps hugged one another in grief and shock outside the sunlit one-room school.
It was the nation’s third deadly school shooting in less than a week, and it sent shock waves through Lancaster County’s peaceful Amish country, a picturesque landscape of green pastures and “neat-as-a-pin” farms, where violent crime is virtually nonexistent. The shooting dragged the Amish, who normally seem stuck in an idyllic rural past of horse-drawn buggies and butter churns, straight into a national series of school attacks. “This is a horrendous, horrific incident for the Amish community. They’re solid citizens in the community. They’re good people. They don’t deserve … no one deserves this,” State Police Commissioner Jeffrey B. Miller said.
Roberts was not Amish and appeared to have nothing against the Amish community, Miller said. The attack bore similarities to a deadly school shooting last week in Bailey, Colo., and authorities there raised the possibility that the Pennsylvania attack was a copycat crime. The victims were members of the Old Order Amish. The shooting took place at the one-room West Nickel Mines Amish School, a neat white building set amid green fields, with a square white horse fence around the schoolyard. The school had about 25 to 30 students, ages 6 to 13.
According to investigators, Roberts walked his own children to their school bus stop, then backed his truck up to the Amish school, unloaded his weapons and several pieces of lumber and walked into the school at around 10 a.m. He released about 15 boys, a pregnant woman and three women with babies, Miller said. Then he barricaded the doors with two-by-fours and two-by-sixes nailed into place, piled-up desks and flexible plastic ties; made the remaining girls line up along a blackboard; and tied their feet together with wire ties and plastic ties.
Roberts apparently called his wife around an hour later, saying that he was taking revenge for an old grudge, Miller said. Evidently, he told his wife shortly before opening fire that he had molested young relatives decades ago and had “dreams of molesting again,” authorities said Tuesday. Despite his talk of molestation, though, and the discovery that he had sexual lubricant and flex-ties with him, police have no evidence that any of the victims were sexually abused, State Police Commissioner Jeffrey B. Miller said. “He states in his suicide note that he had dreams about doing what he did 20 years ago again,” Miller said.
Miller said police could not confirm Charles Carl Roberts IV’s claim about molesting young relatives when Roberts would have been a just a child himself, and he said Roberts’ family members knew nothing of molestation in his past. Roberts also left a note talking about his anguish over the loss of the couple’s newborn daughter nine years ago and how he was angry with God, Miller said. “It changed my life forever, I haven’t been the same since,” he wrote in a note the police released on Tuesday. “It affected me in a way I never felt possible. I am filled with so much hate, hate towards myself, hate towards God and unimaginable emptiness. It seems like every time we do something fun, I think abut how Elise wasn’t here to share it with us and I got right back to anger.”
In Pennsylvania’s insulated Amish country, the outer world has intruded on occasion. In 1999, two Amish men were sent to jail for buying cocaine from a motorcycle gang and selling it to young people in their community.
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