Charles Carl Roberts

Crime Files

Charles Carl Roberts IV was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania on 7 December 1973. His father was a police officer and his mother worked for a Christian organisation staging bible plays. Roberts did not go to school but was educated through a home-schooling association, from which he earned a diploma. In 1990, at the age of 17, Roberts worked as a dishwasher at the Good ‘n Plenty Restaurant in Smoketown, Pennsylvania. It transpired that two of his co-workers were later convicted in the 20 December 1991 murder of Laurie Show, 16, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. They were Lawrence Yunkin and Lisa Michelle Lambert. Roberts married his sweetheart, Marie, and the couple had three children. The family lived in Lancaster County, where Roberts worked as a commercial milk truck driver. The children attended school in Bart Township, Pennsylvania.

The Aftermath

A police search of the truck Roberts had used to drive to the school, revealed a checklist he had made in obvious preparation for his day of horror. Many items had been ticked off the list and matched items Roberts had taken with him into the school building. The list included binoculars, flashlights, earplugs, a hose, hammer, hacksaw, pliers, wire, screws, eyebolts, tape, candles and toilet paper, which led police to believe that Roberts had anticipated a prolonged siege and had planned carefully for this eventuality.In the rambling and largely nonsensical notes Roberts had left for his wife, he spoke of the death of his daughter, Elise, who had been born prematurely in 1997 and had sadly died only 20 minutes after birth. He claimed this was the reason for his anger at God and his sense of overwhelming emptiness and despair.Roberts also wrote of something he had done 20 years previously, when he was 12 years old. He said he had molested two of his young female relatives, then aged between three and five, and that he had been fantasising about repeating this crime. When police questioned Roberts’ two alleged victims, who were then adults, they both denied they had been abused.Despite the fact that Roberts had packed lubricant and only kept the girls hostage, whilst letting the boys free, no evidence of sexual abuse was found. Criminologists were of the opinion that Roberts was likely to have had violent erotic fantasies, or ’rehearsal fantasies’, for some time prior to his day of fateful shooting. All the evidence pointed to a carefully considered and cold-blooded plan of violence and death.On the day of the shooting, Marie Roberts made a public statement that “The man that did this today was not the Charlie I’ve been married to for almost 10 years. My husband was loving, supportive, thoughtful. All the things you’d always want and more. He was an exceptional father. Our hearts are broken, our lives are shattered, and we grieve for the innocents and lives that were lost today. Above all, please pray. Pray for the families who lost children today, and please pray too for our family and children.”Roberts’ funeral was held on 7 October 2006 and whilst neither Roberts nor his family were Amish, his funeral was attended by a large number of shocked Amish neighbours, who were determined to forgive Roberts his terrible sins. He was buried in his wife’s family plot behind the Georgetown United Methodist church, only a few miles from where the shootings had occurred. The one-room West Nickel Mines Amish School in Lancaster County was torn down 11 days after the tragedy.In the aftermath, police searched for clues as to what had driven Roberts to kill. They interviewed his parents and other relatives and it emerged that there was no known family history of violence or abuse. Roberts had no criminal record and had never been wanted by authorities for any crime.According to forensic psychologist Dr Katherine Ramsland, Roberts behaved in a similar way to other mass murderers, who believe that the only way to end their pain and bitterness is in a last display of public violence. She maintained that Roberts was not only filled with self-hate and had intended to die but that his chosen victims were symbolic targets for his rage. Dr Ramsland went on to explain that this often happens in childhood, when a person experiences some sort of trauma but is not able to deal with it at the time. Their fear and anger become sublimated but eventually find expression in fantasies of inflicting revenge or punishment on others.Similar casesPolice investigators believed that Roberts might have been inspired by other crimes of a similar nature. In particular, there were two cases of fatal shootings in the week preceding Roberts’ massacre.On Wednesday, 27 September 2006, Duane Morrison, 53, entered a classroom in a school in Bailey, Colorado. He made the boys leave and kept six girls hostage, forcing them to line up at the front of the classroom. Morrison later let four of the girls leave and he sexually assaulted the remaining two before the SWAT team burst into the room. Morrison shot at the two girls, fatally wounding Emily Keyes, 16, and then put the gun to his head and killed himself.Two days later, on Friday, 29 September 2006, a high school student from Madison, Wisconsin, fatally gunned down his principal after he had complained about being bullied and had been disciplined for carrying tobacco at school.Three days after that, on Monday, 2 October 2006, Roberts perpetrated his heinous crime.Other crimes that may have influenced Roberts had happened many years before. On 6 December 1989, Marc Lepine, 25, went on a killing spree at the University of Montreal’s Engineering School. He targeted random females, as he believed feminism was to blame for his lack of opportunities and his miserable life. Lepine had planned the shooting for months and was well armed. He killed 14 and wounded 15 people before killing himself.In 1966, Charles Whitman shot 44 people from a tower in Austin, Texas, killing 14. He had prepared for a long siege, taking with him barricades, a change of clothing, a large supply of ammunition, and even toilet paper.No one will ever know for certain what mental and emotional demons caused Roberts to commit his seemingly senseless act of violence against innocent school children. However, perhaps we can all try to emulate the Amish community in forgiving such a tortured soul.

Timeline

Born 7 December 1973The Victims 2 October 2006 – Naomi Rose Ebersole, 7 2 October 2006 - Lena Miller, 7 2 October 2006 - Mary Liz Miller, 8 2 October 2006 - Anna Mae Stoltzfus, 12 2 October 2006 - Marian Fisher, 13Died 2 October 2006, age 32

The Crimes

Roberts ended his work shift at 3 a.m. on 2 October 2006 and returned home for a few hours of sleep. Following the normal family routine, Roberts and his wife got their children ready for school and the family walked to the local bus stop. They parted at 8:45 a.m.At 9.51am, driving a borrowed pickup truck, Roberts entered the West Nickel Mines Amish School in Lancaster County, about 60 miles west of Philadelphia. He was armed with a 9mm semi-automatic handgun; a 12-gauge shotgun; a bolt-action rifle; in the region of 600 rounds of ammunition; a stun gun; and two knives.Roberts also had a supply of other items, including cans of black powder; a change of clothes; a box containing a hose, hammer, hacksaw, pliers, wire, screws, eyebolts and tape; sexual lubricant and some sort of truss board, suggesting he had planned some form of sexual activity.When he entered the school building, Roberts barricaded the school doors using 2x6-inch and 2x4-inch wooden boards with eyebolts and flex ties. There were 26 pupils at the school and Roberts kept the 11 girls, aged six to 13, in the room, sending out the 15 boys, as well as the teacher, a pregnant woman and three parents with small babies. Roberts made his young female hostages line up against the blackboard, where he bound their hands and feet.As soon as she was free, the schoolteacher contacted the police and the 911 call, logged at 10:36 a.m., stated that a white male had entered the one-room school building and taken some pupils hostage. The first police officers arrived at the school at 10:45 a.m. and began trying to get Roberts to talk to them. They used the PA broadcasters on their police cars but Roberts did not respond. At 11:00 a.m., emergency vehicles, including at least nine ambulances, were dispatched to Bart Township.It transpired that upon Marie Roberts’ return home at around 11:00 a.m., she had discovered four apparent suicide notes Roberts had written to her and their children. She immediately called her husband, who didn’t answer. A short while later Roberts called Marie from the school, using his mobile phone, and said, “I’m not coming home. The police are here.” He also said he was “acting out to achieve revenge for something that happened 20 years ago,” and that he loved her. It was to be the last time the couple would speak to one another.State Troopers had surrounded the schoolhouse and were ready to close in on Roberts. He began to become agitated and called 911, telling the operator that if the State Troopers did not leave the property, he would start shooting people within 10 seconds. He had meant what he said and the sounds of rapid firing began to ring out. The police had to break windows to gain access to the school building and according to Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner, Jeffrey Miller, Roberts shot at least one shotgun blast at the police before becoming ‘disorganised’ and shooting himself in the head. Roberts died instantly.Police were faced with a grisly scene in the classroom. Roberts had fired at least 13 rounds from his 9 mm semi-automatic handgun and had shot at the girls, killing five. Three died at the scene and two died in hospital of related injuries the following morning. The victims were Naomi Rose Ebersole, 7; sisters Lena Miller, 7 and Mary Liz Miller, 8; Anna Mae Stoltzfus, 12 and Marian Fisher, 13. The girls had all been killed ‘execution style’, with a single close range shot to the head. The other six girls from the class were taken to hospital in critical condition.