The Associated Press
WICHITA, Kan. — Defiant to the end, an anti-abortion zealot who murdered one of the few U.S. doctors who performed late-term abortions was sentenced Thursday to life in prison and won’t be eligible for parole for 50 years — the maximum allowed by law.
Scott Roeder, 52, faced a mandatory life prison term for gunning down Dr. George Tiller in the back of Tiller’s Wichita church last May. He showed no remorse during the daylong sentencing hearing and sought to justify his crime by describing abortion procedures in gritty and graphic detail.
“I stopped him so he could not dismember another innocent baby,” Roeder said. “Wichita is a far safer place for unborn babies without George Tiller.”
Sedgwick County District Judge Warren Wilbert had the choice to make Roeder eligible for parole after 25 or 50 years, but said he gave him the harsher sentence because evidence showed Roeder stalked Tiller before killing him. As he was being led away in handcuffs, Roeder shouted, “Blood of babies on your hands.”
Wilbert also sentenced Roeder to serve an additional year in prison on each of two counts of aggravated assault for threatening two church ushers in the melee. Allowing for possible time off those sentences for good behavior, Roeder won’t be eligible for parole for 51 years and eight months.
In a rambling statement, Roeder — who at trial testified that he killed Tiller to save unborn children — blamed Tiller’s death primarily on the state for not outlawing abortion. He interrupted Wilbert several times as the judge discussed the sentence from the bench. As Wilbert read from a previous court decision saying that allowing vigilantism would promote chaos, Roeder said, “Baby murder is anarchy and chaos.”
Forty minutes into his remarks, Wilbert stopped Roeder as he was about to publicly attack District Attorney Nola Foulston.
“It is not a forum for you to get on a soap box for you to give your entire political beliefs,” Wilbert told Roeder.
Roeder accused Wilbert of “duplicity” and said his trial was a miscarriage of justice because he wasn’t allowed to present testimony about the evils of abortion. He also said God’s judgment against the U.S. will “sweep over this land like a prairie wind.”
“He will avenge every drop of innocent blood,” Roeder said.
Earlier Thursday, Lee Thompson, who was Tiller’s friend and attorney and represents the Tiller family, asked Wilbert to give Roeder the harshest sentence possible, saying anything less would encourage other anti-abortion fanatics to follow in Roeder’s footsteps.
“It will happen again and again,” Thompson said. “This is domestic terrorism. This act will be repeated by this person if he ever sees the light of day again.”
Thompson described Tiller as a devoted husband, father and grandfather and a strong believer in women’s rights. He said his office still receives calls from women seeking medical services. As he spoke, Tiller’s widow Jeanne cried. Roeder at times looked away, yawned and took a drink of water.
“The impact of his death on women throughout the world is like an earthquake,” Thompson said. “They ask, where can I go? What will I do?’ I have to say, ’I’m sorry, I can’t tell you.’ That’s the impact of this crime.”
Foulston argued that the longer sentence was warranted because Roeder stalked Tiller for years. Roeder testified in January that he had previously taken a gun into the doctor’s church and had checked out the gated subdivision where Tiller lived and the clinic where he practiced.
Foulston also told the court that Roeder put others at the church in danger when he shot the doctor and when others chased him afterward. In delivering his sentence, Wilbert said that the choice of venue for the killing, a church, made it even more heinous.
Security was tight for the hearing. Law enforcement officers had explosive-detecting dogs sniffing reporters’ equipment before the hearing. Four Sedgwick County sheriff’s deputies were on duty outside the courtroom Thursday, along with several agents from both the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The Associated Press
- State News
Gov. Nixon declares state of emergency in Missouri
Gov. Jay Nixon today declared a state of emergency in Missouri in response to severe winter weather that began early this morning, bringing hazardous travel and the possibility of power outages.
Party on? No local love in Princeton Review rankings
There's no love for Missouri Southern State University, Pittsburg State University or Crowder College in the new rankings issued by the Princeton Review. Which, given many of the survey categories, isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Publicist: Andy Williams dies
According to a publicist, Emmy-winning TV host and 'Moon River' crooner Andy Williams has died.
Lions climb into share of MIAA men's basketball lead
Without taking the floor, Missouri Southern has climbed into a first-place tie in the MIAA men’s basketball race.
2.6 magnitude earthquake recorded in Oklahoma
The U.S. Geological Survey has recorded a 2.6 magnitude earthquake near Wellston in central Oklahoma.
No injuries or damage is reported.
Audit: $108,000 taken from Missouri Veterans Commission
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A former employee of the state auditor’s office embezzled nearly $108,000 while working as an accountant for the Missouri Veterans Commission, the state auditor alleged Monday.
Stacy Griffin-Lowery was fired by the Veterans Commission in March 2008 and pleaded guilty three months later to a misdemeanor theft charge. She repaid the state $17,665, the auditor’s office said.
But Missouri Auditor Susan Montee on Monday accused Griffin-Lowery of swiping an additional $90,192 by getting reimbursed for cash advances and purchases made on her personal credit card.
Race in Kansas’ 2nd District could heat up for GOP incumbent
TOPEKA, Kan. — A conservative Kansas legislator said Monday he will announce in a few weeks whether he will challenge freshman U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins in the Republican primary.
State Sen. Dennis Pyle’s actions in recent months suggest the Hiawatha farmer, who’s served in the Legislature since 2001, is running against Jenkins in the Aug. 2 primary. He set up a campaign organization in November and has a Web site featuring a brief video of him on his farm, asking viewers for support.
Oklahoma tea party leaders, lawmakers envision militia
OKLAHOMA CITY — Frustrated by recent political setbacks, tea party leaders and some conservative members of the Oklahoma Legislature say they would like to create a new volunteer militia to help defend against what they believe are improper federal infringements on state sovereignty.
Tea party movement leaders say they’ve discussed the idea with several supportive lawmakers and hope to get legislation next year to recognize a new volunteer force
- Missouri: Senate panel cuts $500 million from proposed budget JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A Senate committee declared Thursday that it has sliced more than $500 million from Missouri’s proposed budget for next year — meeting a target set by Gov. Jay Nixon to bring it in balance.
- Kansas: Wichita-area casino in doubt after governor’s decision TOPEKA, Kan. — A proposed casino south of Wichita was in doubt Thursday after Gov. Mark Parkinson refused to grant its developers a regulatory reprieve. Partners in the $225 million Chisholm Creek project wanted to delay a state board’s decision on their plans.
- More State News Headlines
- Gov. Nixon declares state of emergency in Missouri