WICHITA, Kan. – Defiant in court, a man who murdered one of the few U.S. doctors who performed late-term abortions used his sentencing hearing to do what the judge wouldn’t let him do during his trial – justify his crime by describing abortion in gritty detail.
Scott Roeder was sentenced Thursday to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 50 years, the harshest sentence possible under Kansas law for gunning down Dr. George Tiller in the foyer of the physician’s church last May.
“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.”
Roeder, 52, also was sentenced to an additional year in prison on each of two counts of aggravated assault for threatening two church ushers as he fled.
Tiller’s widow, Jeanne, cried as the sentence for murder was announced.
“We only can hope that this sentence will serve as a deterrent to those who have conspired and continue to conspire to murder abortion providers,” the Tiller family said in a statement. “Certainly everything possible should be done by the prison system to insure that this man does not continue to foment hatred and violence from his prison cell.”
District Judge Warren Wilbert could have made Roeder eligible for parole on the murder charge after 25 years. But he said there was evidence Roeder stalked Tiller and added that killing him in a church made the crime heinous because a house of worship is meant to be “a place of peace and tranquility.”
Roeder argued he had chosen to obey “God’s law” to save babies.
“I did kill him. It was not a murder,” Roeder said.
Roeder also took the opportunity to describe abortion procedures in detail, which he had been forbidden from doing during his trial.
Roeder accused Wilbert of “duplicity” and said his trial was a miscarriage of justice because he wasn’t allowed to present testimony then about the evils of abortion. He also said God’s judgment against the U.S. will “sweep over this land like a prairie wind.”
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’s ex-wife said the outbursts were characteristic of the man she knew. Lindsey Roeder said she and their son, Nicholas, were relieved by the sentence.
“I think it will be a lot easier to put it behind us than it will be for the Tiller family,” she said. “Their pain will continue long after ours has subsided.”