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.