Was the Shocking Murder of a Brave Abortion Provider Really the Work of a 'Lone Wolf'?
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As soon as Scott Roeder was named the sole suspect in the point-blank shooting death of Wichita, Kan., abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in the vestibule of the Reformation Lutheran Church Tiller attended, a predictable story began to be told. Following the lead of a recent Department of Homeland Security report characterizing right-wing terrorists as lone wolves, the Los Angeles Times, CNN, ABC, NBC and FOX News all ran stories calling Roeder a “lone wolf” gunman.
It is the oldest, possibly most dangerous abortion story out there.
August 13, 1994, The Washington Post: “ Many anti-abortion leaders have… denounced Paul Hill [who killed abortion provider Dr. John Britton and his security escort James Barrett]…as a lone, sick extremist.”
October 26, 1998, The Independent (London): “A doctor defiant [is] shot dead for his beliefs by a lone abortion terrorist [referring to James Kopp, who killed Amherst, N.Y., abortion provider Dr. Barnett Slepian].”
But for loners, these guys have a lot of friends. A lot of the same ones, in fact.
Over the past six months, I have interviewed Scott Roeder more than a dozen times, met several times with his supporters at the Sedgwick County Courthouse in Wichita where he was tried and convicted, and permissibly recorded numerous three-way telephone conversations Roeder had me place to his friends. Using information gleaned from these sources, along with public records, it is possible to piece together the close, long-term and ongoing relationship between Roeder and other anti-abortion extremists who advocate murder and violent attacks on abortion providers.
Now, meet Roeder’s anti-abortion associates, beginning with Roeder himself. Scott Roeder, 52, was born in Denver. His family moved to Topeka, Kan., when he was a toddler. He worked for the Kansas City electric company, and at age 28, he married and had a son. For about five years family life was stable, but then in the early 1990s Roeder suddenly could not cope—with anything.
While under financial stress in 1992, Roeder happened upon right-wing televangelist Pat Robertson’s 700 Club on television. He claims he fell to his knees and became a born-again Christian. According to his own recollections and those of his ex-wife, he immediately fixated on what he considered two earthly evils: taxes and abortion.
In very short order, he affiliated himself with Christian anti-government groups such as the Freemen militia and eventually became involved with antiabortion groups such as Operation Rescue and the Army of God, the latter of which openly sanctions the use of violence to stop abortion.
Roeder told me that his first act as an anti-abortion activist was to protest outside a Kansas City women’s clinic. Among the protestors he came to know were Anthony Leake, a proponent of the “justifiable homicide”of abortion doctors, and Eugene Frye, the owner of a Kansas City construction company who, together with another antiabortion activist, had been arrested in 1990 for attempting to reinsert the feeding tube of a Missouri woman in a persistent vegetative state. Frye had also been arrested for blockading abortion clinics during the 1991 Summer of Mercy in Wichita, which was organized by Operation Rescue.
Through Frye, Roeder says, he soon met Rachelle “Shelley” Shannon. She, like Frye, had attended the Summer of Mercy protests; over the next two years she would commit eight arson or acid attacks on abortion clinics in the Pacific Northwest. Then, most horrifically, on August 19, 1993, she would try to murder Dr. George Tiller, succeeding only in shooting and wounding him in both his arms.
Roeder says Frye took him to visit Shannon where she was incarcerated in Topeka. Roeder was instantly smitten with the intense, unrepentant shooter. Frye had made a match. Roeder began visiting Shannon without Frye: Over the years, while she served her 30-year-long sentence for the clinic attacks and the attemptedmurder, Roeder would see her some 25 times. As his marriage
began disintegrating, he even considered asking the raven-haired Shannon about beginning a romance. But, he told me, he did not because of the obvious obstacles involved in dating an incarcerated woman.