Anti-abortion activist charged in killing of doctor

An anti-abortion activist was charged yesterday with first-degree murder in the death of late-term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, and the prosecutor said evidence in the case ruled out the death penalty.


Scott Roeder, 51, was shown via a video link from the Sedgwick County jail as Judge Ben Burgess read the charges.

Burgess ordered Roeder held without bond and said he was not allowed to communicate with Tiller’s family or two witnesses Roeder is accused of assaulting. The judge told him that he would be assigned a public defender.

A preliminary hearing is set for June 16.

If convicted of the murder charge, Roeder would face a mandatory life sentence and would not be eligible for parole for at least 25 years.

Kansas law requires that special circumstances exist before the death penalty can be considered: killing a law officer, killing more than one person or a victim kidnapped for ransom or rape, or a murder for hire.

Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, an anti-abortion group, said Roeder attended at least one day of a March trial in which Tiller was acquitted on 19 counts of failing to obtain a second, independent opinion before performing late-term abortions. Roeder wore an anti-abortion T-shirt, which a court officer had him cover up, Newman said.

Roeder is accused of fatally shooting Tiller on Sunday at the doctor’s Lutheran church in Wichita as he was serving as an usher. Roeder also was charged with aggravated assault for allegedly threatening two people who tried to stop him.

Roeder was arrested hours after the shooting near Gardner, about 170 miles northeast of Wichita.