Before his arrest for last week’s shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Robert Lewis Dear had on several occasions been accused of erupting in bursts of violence, particularly toward women.
At least two of his three ex-wives have accused him of physical abuse, according to court records. And in 1992, Dear was arrested and accused of sexual violence and rape.
Since Friday’s shooting at the clinic, which killed three and wounded nine, neighbors and others who crossed paths with Dear have described him as an angry man who often exhibited strange and unsettling behavior. The latest details of alleged rape and domestic abuse were first reported by the Charleston, S.C., Post and Courier.
The alleged rape involved a woman who worked at a mall. According to police records in North Charleston, S.C., the woman told police that Dear had repeatedly asked her out. Even after she refused — and informed him that she was married — Dear kept calling her two to three times a day.
Then, on Nov. 29, 1992, Dear suddenly appeared at her front door as she opened it to take out the trash, according to police records. Holding a knife to her neck, he hit her and began raping her, first on the couch then on the floor.
After Dear left, the woman immediately called a friend, sent word to the ship on which her husband was stationed, and was taken to a Navy hospital.
According to police records, Dear acknowledged to investigators that he had sex with the woman, but he said it was consensual.
State documents do not indicate what happened in the case. There is no record of a conviction, which means the case was probably dismissed. North Charleston police said that they could not say how the case had been resolved and referred questions to the local solicitors office, where officials did not return calls.
Dear has also been accused of violence by his former wives. Married and divorced three times, Dear has at least four sons from those marriages. His second wife, Barbara Micheau, declined to discuss her ex-husband.
But in a 1993 divorce affidavit cited by the Post and Courier and the New York Times, Micheau described Dear as a man who was extremely religious and used religion at times to justify abusive behavior. At the same time, he was deeply sinful, she said, describing him as a serial philanderer and gambler.
“He claims to be a Christian and is extremely evangelistic but does not follow the Bible in his actions,” Micheau said in the affidavit. “He says that as long as he believes he will be saved, he can do whatever he pleases. He is obsessed with the world coming to an end.”
In the divorce papers, Micheau said Dear threw her around a room by her hair on one occasion and beat her head against the ground. In the affidavit, she said Dear “erupts into fury in a matter of seconds,” and that she “lived in fear and dread of his emotional and physical abuse,” according to the Post and Courier.
Dear’s third wife, Pamela Ross, also reported domestic abuse to police in 1997, according to reports filed with the sheriff’s office in Colleton County, S.C., where Dear lived at the time. Ross declined to file charges against Dear but told police that she reported the incident because she “wanted something on record.”
Outside her home near Charleston, Ross, who has since remarried, declined to comment. Through tears, she said that she has been stricken since Friday’s shooting, and she expressed frustration with reporters who have been calling her nonstop trying to learn more about Dear.
Ross’s current husband said the couple has had only sporadic contact with Dear since the divorce.
In May 2002, another woman who lived next door to Dear in Walterboro, S.C., complained to police that Dear had been “making unwanted advancements” toward her since she and her husband had moved in a year earlier.
The woman told police that she had seen Dear hiding in the bushes next to her house at 5:30 a.m. She “heard her guard dog barking and saw Mr. Dear looking into her house.”
Neighbors and others close to Dear, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution by Dear or his family, say Dear was born in Charleston and grew up in Kentucky. But recently, he had split his time between North and South Carolina, they said, working as an independent art dealer, selling art prints from gallery to gallery in Charleston and elsewhere.
More than a dozen people who lived next door to the string of trailers and ramshackle houses Dear called home over the past two decades described him as silent and sullen, a recluse notable for odd behavior: cruelty to his own dogs, bizarre mutterings about government conspiracies, skinny-dipping and angry rebuffs when they tried to say hello.
Dear’s peculiar behavior and pursuit of women appeared to extend online. An e-mail address confirmed as Dear’s by two people close to him was linked to a flurry of message-board postings on Cannabis.com. The posts are mainly political and religious rants, with several focused on death, hell and the end of the world.
One post read: “WAKE UP SINNERS U CANT SAVE YOURSELF U WILL DIE AN WORMS SHALL EAT YOUR FLESH.” Another said: “aids , hurricanes, we are in the end times.”
One person who had discussed politics with Dear said he had often praised those who attacked abortion clinics as “heroes.” On Saturday, a law enforcement official said Dear used the phrase “no more baby parts’’ after he was arrested to explain his decision to attack Planned Parenthood, one of the nation’s largest abortion providers.
Online, Dear was often equally interested in trying to attract women: “savannah sexy women wanted,” one post said. “i love to party , tall , aries , male.”
Julie Tate and Àna Swanson contributed to this report.