Charlie Roberts PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 08 October 2011 12:05


Charles RobertsCharles Carl Roberts IV

Born: December 7, 1973, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, U.S.

Died: October 2, 2006, Bart Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, U.S.

Age: 32

Cause of death: Self inflicted gunshot.

Notable because: Charlie Roberts was an milk truck driver who, angry with God over the death of his infant daughter, decided to punish him by shooting some Christian girls. He killed five Amish girls and injured five others before killing himself in an Amish school in the hamlet of Nickel Mines, in Bart Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania on October 2, 2006. The Amish attitude of forgiveness towards him has been widely reported.

Charles Carl Roberts IV was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. His father is retired from the local police force. In 2004, his father applied to the state for a special license to provide paratransit service to the Amish. Roberts earned a diploma through a home-school association, and neither he nor his family were Amish. In 1990, Roberts worked as a dishwasher at Good 'N Plenty Restaurant in Smoketown, Pennsylvania. Two of his co-workers were Lawrence Yunkin and Lisa Michelle Lambert, who were convicted in the December 20, 1991 murder of 16-year old Laurie Show in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Roberts was a commercial milk tank driver, employed by North West Foods.

On October 2, 2006, Roberts entered the one-room West Nickel Mines School at approximately 9:51 a.m. with a 9 mm handgun, 12 gauge shotgun, .30-06 bolt-action rifle, about 600 rounds of ammunition, cans of black powder, a stun gun, two knives, a change of clothes, an apparent truss board and a box containing a hammer, hacksaw, pliers, wire, screws, bolts and tape. He used 2×6 and 2×4 boards with eye bolts and flex ties to barricade the school doors before binding the arms and legs of the hostages. He ordered the hostages to line up against the chalkboard and released the 15 male students present, along with a pregnant woman and three parents with infants. The remaining 10 female students he kept inside the schoolhouse. The school teacher contacted the police upon escaping at approximately 10:36 a.m. The first police officers arrived about nine minutes later and attempted (unsuccessfully) to communicate with Roberts using the PA broadcasters in their cruisers.

Police had to break in through the windows when shots were heard. The gunman apparently killed himself along with five school girls. Three of the girls died at the scene, with two more dying the next morning from related injuries. Five girls were in the hospital in critical condition. Reports have stated that the girls were shot execution style in the head. The ages of the victims ranged from 6 to 13. Roberts fired at least 13 rounds from his 9 mm semi-automatic pistol.

Roberts was last seen by his wife at 8:45 a.m. when they walked their children to the bus stop to go to school in Bart Township. When his wife returned home at 11:00 a.m., she discovered four notes he had left to her and their children. Roberts reportedly contacted his wife while still in the schoolhouse and stated that he had molested two young female relatives (between the ages of three and five) 20 years ago (when he would have been 12), and had been daydreaming about molesting again. Both of the relatives in question have denied these claims. Among the items he brought to the school was a tube of KY Jelly, which investigators surmised he might have intended to use as a sexual lubricant. His suicide notes stated that he was still angry at God for the death of a premature infant daughter nine years prior.

The Rev. Schenck reports a grandfather of one of the murdered Amish girls said of the killer on the day of the murder: "We must not think evil of this man."

Jack Meyer, a member of the Brethren community living near the Amish in Lancaster County, explained to CNN: "I do not think there's anybody here that wants to do anything but forgive and not only reach out to those who have suffered a loss in that way but to reach out to the family of the man who committed these acts."

Dwight Lefever, a Roberts family spokesman, said an Amish neighbor comforted the Roberts family hours after the shooting and extended forgiveness to them.

Dozens of Amish neighbors attended Charles Roberts' funeral on October 7, 2006. He was buried in an unmarked grave in his wife's family plot behind Georgetown United Methodist Church, a few miles from the one-room West Nickel Mines schoolhouse. One mourner stated that Roberts' wife was touched by the outward gesture of forgiveness by the Amish community. The schoolhouse was torn down eleven days after the tragedy and was re-built in a nearby location.


Excerpts from  killer's note
Charles Roberts
Charles Roberts was haunted by memories of his child's death

The following is the first page of a three-page suicide note which Charles Roberts wrote to his wife Marie before attacking an Amish school in Pennsylvania.


In the letter he speaks of his pain following the death of his premature daughter Elise, nine years ago.


"I don't know how you put up with me all those years. I am not worthy of you, you are the perfect wife you deserve so much better.

"We had so many good memories together as well as the tragedy with Elise.

It changed my life forever I haven't been the same since it affected me in a way I never felt possible.

I am filled with so much hate, hate toward myself hate towards God and unimaginable emptyness it seems like everytime we do something fun I think about how Elise wasn't here to share it with us and I go right back to anger."


The Amish version:

October 2nd, 2006. It was a typical fall day. Birds could be heard in the distance and little else, except maybe the clip-clop of a horse's hoofs and the rattling of a buggy heading down a back country road. It's normally quiet and peaceful in the rolling Amish farmlands of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

But that peace was shattered when the sound of gunfire was heard from inside an Amish school. When local police broke into the one-room Amish schoolhouse they found 10 Amish girls ages 6-13 had been shot by Charles Carl Roberts IV, who had then committed suicide.

School shootings are a far too frequent occurrence in this country. But this case openly displayed a clash of two different cultures - the modern, more "advanced" American society and the withdrawn community of the Amish, who intentionally attempt to distance themselves from worldly influences. The violence that is far too common in one society blasted its way into the non-violent, peaceful community of "the gentle people".

The shooting took place at the West Nickel Mines Amish School, located about 12 miles southeast of Lancaster City. Nickel Mines is just a crossroads within Bart Township, a local municipality with a population of roughly 3,000 Amish and English (the Amish term for the non-Amish).

The school was a typical
Amish one-room school with a school bell on the roof, two outhouses, a ball field, and an enclosed schoolyard. It was built in 1976. On the blackboard was a sign with a teddy bear. The sign read "Visitors Bubble Up Our Days". Twenty-six children, ages 6-13, from three different local Amish church districts attended this school.

Charlie Roberts was a milk truck driver who serviced the local community, including the farms of some of the victims' families. Nine years earlier his wife Amy gave birth to their first child, a baby girl. However, the baby died after living only 20 minutes. Apparently his daughter's death affected him greatly. He never forgave God for her death, and eventually planned to get revenge.

On the morning of October 2nd Roberts said goodbye to two of his own children at the school bus stop, then drove to the West Nickel Mines Amish School. When he walked in the door, some of the children recognized him. That day the school had four adult visitors - the teacher's mother, her sister, and two sisters-in-law. One of the women was pregnant. When the young teacher saw his guns, she and her mother left the other adults with the children and ran to a nearby house for help. A call was made to 911.
The pregnant visitor was trying to comfort 7-year old Naomi Rose when Roberts ordered the adults to leave. Then he told the boys to leave. The boys huddled near an outhouse to pray. Roberts had the 10 girls lie down facing the blackboard and he tied their hands and feet. Roberts told the girls he was sorry for what he was about to do, but "I'm angry at God and I need to punish some Christian girls to get even with him."

When the state police arrived, Roberts ordered them to leave the property or he would shoot. He told the girls, "I'm going to make you pay for my daughter." One of the girls, 13-year old Marian, said, "Shoot me first." Roberts began shooting each of the girls before finally shooting himself. When the police broke in to the school, two of the girls, including Marian, were dead. Naomi Rose died in the arms of a state trooper.

Emergency personnel arrived quickly, and helicopters flew the wounded to hospitals in Lancaster, Hershey, Reading, and Delaware. Two sisters died later that night in two different area hospitals. Amish parents tried to console themselves by saying the five girls who had died were "safe in the arms of Jesus."

Word about the shooting spread quickly throughout the Amish community. The shooting was reported on local television stations, and was soon picked up by the national media. Reporters, photographers, and video crews invaded this rural countryside to report this story around the world. While the Amish community strives to avoid publicity, this tragic event thrust their community in front of a worldwide audience.
Black day: Amish mourners travel in horse-drawn carriages during the funerals of the girls killed by Charles Roberts.
The Amish were obviously shocked by this incident and they collectively grieved for the children and their families. But that shock extended far beyond just the Amish. This tragedy rocked all of Lancaster County. The day after the shooting, 1600 gathered for a prayer service at one local church, while hundreds more met at other churches for prayer. All Lancaster County shared in the horror and grief of this tragedy. As one Amishman said, "Today, we're all Amish."

Some individuals and organizations hosted barbecues and other events to raise financial support for the victims' funds. Over 3,000
motorcyclists rode together from nearby Chester County to Lancaster in a procession over 12 miles long. They raised over $30,000 in support.

A number of funds were set up to accept donations for the families of the Amish girls who were shot, and for Roberts' wife and three young children. Donations and sympathy flowed in not only from Lancaster County but from across the county and around the world. For months volunteers met at the Bart Twp. Firehouse to sort through thousands of cards, letters, teddy bears, and other gifts from around the world. Some were addressed simply to "Amish Families, USA".

In all, over four million dollars was raised in support of the families.

The horror of this school shooting was the story the reporters came to tell about. However, in the hours and days following the shooting another story developed that also caught the world's attention - the story of
Amish grace and forgiveness. Be sure to read about the Amish response to this tragedy.


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Last Updated on Saturday, 08 October 2011 12:21

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