Site of Amish Schoolhouse Shooting Razed

The Associated Press
Thursday, October 12, 2006; 7:27 PM

NICKEL MINES, Pa. -- Ten days after the Amish schoolhouse shootings, a demolition crew using heavy equipment tore down the bloodstained building Thursday and obliterated nearly all traces of the place where five girls were killed.

Only a bare patch of earth was left behind, and it was planted with grass seed, so that eventually even the footprint of the one-room schoolhouse will be gone, too.

Any kind of plaque or memorial is unlikely. Members of the plain-living Amish community said it would be too showy and would attract too many visitors.

"They do not want to make it a tourist attraction," said the 27-year-old brother of two of the 15 boys sent out of the schoolhouse by the gunman before the shooting.

"It's definitely a little heart-wrenching to see it go down, but it sort of finishes things off," said the Amish man, who like most members of the community did not want to be identified in any news accounts.

The Amish are known for constructing buildings by hand, without the aid of modern technology, but for this job they arranged for private contractors with heavy equipment to end a painful chapter for their community.

Construction lights glared in the mist as a large backhoe tore into the overhang of the school's porch before daybreak, then knocked down the bell tower and toppled the walls. Within 15 minutes, the building was reduced to a pile of rubble. By 7:30 a.m., the debris was gone, hauled away by dump trucks.

The schoolhouse, built in 1976, had been boarded up since the killings, with classes moved to a farm nearby.

Rebecca Miller, the grandmother of two girls who were killed, told WGAL-TV in Lancaster on Thursday that classes resumed Monday and that parents have accompanied their children to help ease any fears.

The Amish planned to turn the spot where the schoolhouse stood into pasture. There are 10 other Amish school buildings around the community.

Herman Bontrager, a Mennonite businessman serving as a spokesman for the Amish said there was widespread feeling that the building should be removed. "Especially for the children, but not only for the children," he said.

Twenty to 30 people, many of them in Amish dress, gathered to watch as the schoolhouse was leveled.

The destruction of the West Nickel Mines Amish School came a week after the funerals of the five girls killed by gunman Charles Carl Roberts IV. Roberts wounded five other girls and killed himself as police closed in.

New details emerged Thursday in the investigation. State police Trooper Blain Hertzog confirmed reports that after 13-year-old Marian Fisher asked Roberts to shoot her first and let the others go free, Roberts told the girls: "I'm going to make you pay for my daughter."

Roberts said he was angry at God for the November 1997 death of his infant daughter. He also said he was driven by memories of molesting two young relatives 20 years ago, a claim investigators have not substantiated.


Associated Press writer Mark Scolforo contributed to this story.

© 2006 The Associated Press