Suspect in Kan. abortion provider killing in court
WICHITA, Kan. — The man charged with gunning down abortion provider George Tiller at his Kansas church was expected to enter a plea Tuesday in the murder case.
Prosecutors allege Scott Roeder, 51, of Kansas City, Mo., shot and killed Tiller while the doctor served as an usher at the Wichita church he regularly attended. Authorities also claim Roeder threatened two ushers who tried to stop him during the May 31 attack in the church’s foyer.
Unless the defense waives Tuesday’s preliminary hearing, prosecutors must convince a judge they have enough evidence to merit a trial on one count of first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault. Roeder would then enter a plea.
Tiller, 67, had been the target of regular protests for most of the 36 years he performed abortions at his Wichita clinic, where he practiced as one of the nation’s few providers of late-term abortions. He was shot in both arms by an anti-abortion activist in 1993, and the doctor had been repeatedly threatened over the years.
If Roeder is convicted of first-degree murder, he faces life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years.
It is unknown how many people the prosecution might call for Tuesday’s hearing, but the witness list has 220 names, mostly law enforcement officials. Also on the list are members of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue; Roeder’s ex-wife and son; Tiller’s wife, Jeanne, who was singing in the choir when her husband was shot; and Rachelle “Shelley” Shannon, who shot Tiller in 1993.
In rambling jailhouse interviews, Roeder has talked about the notion of justifiable homicide against abortion providers, but he has refused to discuss any facts of his case.
Roeder has told The Associated Press Tiller’s shooting was justified, but never has claimed a role in the slaying.