QUARRYVILLE, Pa. – The gunman who killed five girls in an Amish schoolroom confided to his wife during the siege that he molested two relatives 20 years ago when he was a boy and was tormented by dreams of doing it again, authorities said Tuesday.
Investigators also said Charles Carl Roberts IV, 32, plotted his takeover of the school for nearly a week and the items he brought – including flexible plastic ties, eyebolts and lubricating jelly – suggest he may have been planning to sexually assault the Amish girls before police closed in.
“It’s very possible that he intended to victimize these children in many ways prior to executing them and killing himself,” State Police Commissioner Jeffrey B. Miller said. But Roberts “became disorganized when we arrived,” and shot himself in the head.
Holding up a copy of the gunman’s suicide note at a packed news conference, Miller also suggested that Roberts was haunted by the death of his prematurely born daughter in 1997. The baby, Elise, died 20 minutes after being delivered, Miller said.
Elise’s death “changed my life forever,” the milk truck driver and father of three wrote to his wife. “I haven’t been the same since it affected me in a way I never felt possible. I am filled with so much hate, hate toward myself hate towards God and unimaginable emptyness it seems like everytime we do something fun I think about how Elise wasn’t here to share it with us and I go right back to anger.”
The state police commissioner identified the demons in Roberts’ head a day after the shooting rampage shattered the sense of calm in Lancaster County’s bucolic Pennsylvania Dutch Country, where the Amish live a peaceful, turn-the-other-cheek existence in an 18th-century world with no automobiles and no electrical appliances.
“He certainly was very troubled psychologically deep down and was dealing with things that nobody else knew he was dealing with,” Miller said.
The death toll rose to six Tuesday – including the gunman – when two girls died of their wounds.
During the standoff, Roberts told his wife in a cell phone call from the one-room schoolhouse that he molested two female relatives when they were 3 to 5 years old, Miller said. Roberts would have been about 11 or 12 at the time. Also, in a suicide note left for his family, he said he “had dreams about doing what he did 20 years ago again,” Miller said.
Police could not immediately confirm Roberts’ claim that he molested two relatives. Family members knew nothing of molestation in his past, Miller said. Police located the two relatives and were hoping to interview them.
Roberts had planned the attack for nearly a week, buying plastic ties from a hardware store on Sept. 26 and several other items less than an hour before entering the school, Miller said.
The crime bore some resemblance to an attack at a high school in Bailey, Colo., where a 53-year-old man took six girls hostage and sexually assaulted them before fatally shooting one girl and killing himself. That attack occurred last Wednesday, the day after Roberts began buying materials for his siege.
Using a checklist that was later found in his pickup truck, Roberts brought to the school three guns, a stun gun, two knives, a pile of wood for barricading the doors, and a bag with 600 rounds of ammunition, police said. He also had a change of clothing, indicating he had planned a long siege, police said.
He sent the boys and several adults away and bound the girls together in a line at the blackboard. Miller on Tuesday revealed that one of the girls was able to escape with the boys.
A two-by-four piece of lumber found in the school had 10 large eyebolts spaced about 10 inches apart, suggesting that Roberts may have planned to truss up the girls and sexually assault them, Miller said. “It’s important to note that we had 10 victims at that time that were in the school,” he said.
The girls left in the room were shot at close range shortly after police arrived, Miller said.
“We’re quite certain, based on what we know, that he had no intention of coming out of there alive,” Miller said.