Murder Visits an Amish School House
Saturday, October 7, 2006; 12:29 PM
-- Just before 3 a.m., after finishing his milk route through rolling Pennsylvania farmland, Charles C. Roberts IV parked his big rig in its usual place outside the Nickel Mines Auction House, across the road from the Amish school.
He did this every work day _ the auction house's gravel parking lot was big enough to accommodate Roberts' container truck. His routine was to leave home, less than two miles away, park his own vehicle in the lot, and head off in the truck on his nightly run to collect milk from surrounding Amish farms.
On Monday, at the end of his shift, he drove home to the middle-class, vinyl-sided house on Georgetown Road where he lived with his wife, Marie, and their three children, on whom he doted: two boys and a girl, ages 2 to 7.
He had told no one about his plan.
He said nothing about suicide or the arsenal he'd been stockpiling for nearly a week _ pieces of lumber, 600 rounds of ammunition, an illegal stun gun, a 12-gauge shotgun, a 9 mm handgun, flex-ties, toilet paper, a five-gallon bucket.
Instead, he left a legacy of words on paper, including a spiral binder with a checklist for murder. But all his words cannot explain why a man described as a devoted father would walk into the Amish schoolhouse he knew well and shoot 10 girls at point-blank range, killing five.
People have struggled for days to find some understanding. He left only notes of anger and guilt and grief over events that can't be verified (he spoke of molesting two relatives 20 years ago, but the women have no recollection of it) and some events that indeed happened (an infant who lived only 20 minutes, nine years ago).
Police are still piecing together the small details that filled the last day of a man who walked among students he knew and fired more than a dozen rounds into Amish girls in long, plain dresses who never did him any harm.
They struggle to explain a horror that is inexplicable.
Roberts slept a few hours when he got home.
At 7:30 a.m., he was up and helping Marie get the kids ready for school. At 8:45 a.m., he walked them to the school bus stop, as was his habit.