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Suspect charged in Kansas killing

Wed., June 3, 2009

WICHITA, Kan. – Prosecutors Tuesday charged Scott Roeder, a 51-year-old man with ties to right-wing militia groups, with murder for allegedly killing prominent abortion doctor George Tiller.

The charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison because the crime does not meet Kansas’ legal requirements for the death penalty, Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston told an afternoon news conference. Tiller, 67, was gunned down Sunday as he served as an usher at his church here.

Kansas law requires multiple killings, the slaying of a law enforcement officer or other facts before the death penalty can be sought, Foulston said.

Roeder made a brief court appearance via video camera Tuesday. Shackled and dressed in a red jumpsuit, Roeder stood at a lectern and flipped through a copy of the charges, swaying on his feet.

He answered “OK” when Judge Ben Burgess read through the charges, which include two counts of aggravated assault for allegedly brandishing his gun at two other churchgoers who tried to stop him.

Burgess said a restraining order is in place to keep Roeder from making contact with those two men.

Roeder filed papers to be represented by the Sedgwick County Public Defender’s Office.

Burgess told him that a public defender would be assigned within a couple of days.

Burgess set the next court appearance – at which Roeder is expected to enter a plea – for June 16.

Tiller, one of the few remaining U.S. doctors to provide late-term abortions, had survived a previous assassination attempt and the bombing of his clinic.

Mainstream groups and many religious leaders that oppose abortion rights have condemned Tiller’s killing.

But local abortion foes said Roeder agreed with a small school of activists who believe in killing abortion providers to save unborn babies.

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