“I didn’t know what to do. I just froze there. I was 9,” she said in her testimony before the Missouri House Ethics Committee.
The incident was one of several disturbing stories recounted to the committee by Roeber’s ex-wife and three of his four children, who accused the freshman lawmaker of terrorizing them while on alcoholic benders and regularly whipping his children with a belt. His ex-wife also said that he once “drowned several puppies” in a pond.
On Monday, the bipartisan committee unanimously recommended Roeber’s expulsion. The House will vote later this week on the measure, which would require a two-thirds majority.
“The state of Missouri has failed these children for over 20 years,” the committee wrote. “Although this committee cannot change the past, this committee can provide a clear record of [Roeber’s] abusive conduct.”
In his testimony before the committee, Roeber denied the sexual and physical abuse and said he “did not recall whether he used a belt on his children,” according to the report. He also blamed his former wife for breaking up the family and claimed that her “bitterness” had “spilled over to the children.”
Roeber was “combative, defensive, defiant, and at times angry” during his hearing, according to the report. At one point, he said “all my kids are Democrats” and therefore involved in a “political hit” against him because “Democrats would accuse their fathers” of this kind of abuse.
Roeber represents Missouri’s 34th District, a seat that was held by his late wife, Rep. Rebecca Roeber, who died in July 2019 of injuries from a car crash. Roeber ran unopposed in the 2020 Republican primary.
In September, two of Roeber’s children spoke publicly to the Kansas City Star’s editorial board about the abuse they said they endured as children in the 1990s. Despite the editorial, Roeber beat his Democratic opponent by 301 votes but was expelled from the Republican caucus when his term began, according to the Star.
Not long after the election, three of Roeber’s children wrote to Missouri House Speaker Rob Vescovo (R) detailing their abuse and asking him to hold their father accountable.
“Please do what is right, not just for us, but for all those in Missouri who have suffered, and all the children you have sworn to protect,” the siblings wrote, according to the report.
In December, the Missouri House announced that it would investigate the accusations once Roeber took office in January. From February through April, the committee heard testimony from his former wife and three of his children, who were not named but rather identified as Child 1, 2, 3, and 4. The witness known as Child 1 was adopted in 1984, when Roeber married his first wife. The two separated in 1990 and divorced in 1992.
During her testimony, his adopted daughter said Roeber “groomed” her “from a very young age.”
“He treated me more like a [companion] … when we would ride in the car, he’d have his hand on my upper thigh just kind of rubbing it,” she testified, according to the report.
After he sexually abused her in the living room in 1990, she told the committee, he warned her that if she told anyone, she would ruin the family because he would get in trouble and go to prison.
She said that she informed her mother of the sexual abuse in 1993 and that she reported it to police, who declined to press charges. She added that when she was 15, Roeber met her as she was exiting the school bus and tried to apologize for the sexual abuse, adding that he “was in a blackout” from his alcoholism.
Roeber would also whip his children with a belt, they testified. Child 3 described Roeber as a “bully” and said even after Roeber became sober, the abuse “did not let up,” the report said. The witness told the committee that Child 3 received 185 beatings.
All four witnesses testified that Child 2, who did not speak to the committee, received the worst of the abuse. Child 4 described Child 2 as “broken” and said the whole family suffered a “hellish nightmare,” according to the report.
Roeber’s former wife described an incident from when Child 2 was a toddler and knocked something over. She said Roeber “flipped” the child over and “just started beating” the child. Child 2 has a scar on an eyelid from being struck by a nail in a board during the beating.
In 2001, his ex-wife said she learned that Child 2 was also sexually abused in 1990, when the child was 5. The report states Roeber’s sexual abuse constituted “deviate sexual intercourse” under state law.
The child also disclosed the abuse to a therapist, who notified the Division of Family Services and local law enforcement. DFS found probable cause of abuse but once again, no criminal charges were filed. Roeber appealed the probable-cause finding two years later and won.
Roeber declined to provide witnesses to the House committee, according to the report, but submitted a supposed email exchange between himself and Child 2 from September 2007 to February 2008 in which the child allegedly apologized for lying about the abuse. But Roeber did not provide further proof of the emails and of the exchange. As a result, the committee found that the evidence wasn’t credible.
Following the weeks of testimony, the chair of the ethics panel and the Missouri House speaker wrote to the prosecutor in Jackson County, Mo., expressing their concern about Roeber’s step-grandson, who often spends weekends at Roeber’s home.
On April 8, the committee unanimously voted that the allegations against Roeber were credible and that he should be expelled. Last Tuesday, Roeber sent a letter of resignation to the speaker, according to the report. The Star reported that Roeber did not mention the investigation in the letter, but rather said he was resigning because he and his fiancee were moving out of the state.
But in an unprecedented move, the Republican-led House voted unanimously to postpone Roeber’s resignation until after the ethics committee submitted its findings.
If the Missouri House votes to expel Roeber, he will be just the second member ever forced out, according to the Star. In 1865, a member was expelled for being disloyal to the Union during the Civil War.
Roeber’s children said they are still healing from a traumatic childhood and abuse that has splintered the family.
“To have someone that you are trusting as your parent to treat you in that manner and to not treat you like a child … take[s] away your innocence,” his adopted daughter said in her testimony, according to the report.