Special Reports

Investigation into George Tiller's shooting death intensifies

The U.S. Attorney General on Monday increased security at abortion clinics and for abortion providers, and federal authorities said they are investigating a vandalism incident at George Tiller's clinic last month.

The developments came a day after Tiller, who performed late-term abortions at his east Wichita clinic, was shot to death Sunday morning while serving as an usher at his church. The man arrested in connection with the shooting is expected to appear in court today.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder ordered increased security for some abortion clinics and doctors in the wake of Tiller's slaying. Authorities revealed few details of the plan, including whether there would be increased security at Tiller's clinic.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, meanwhile, said Monday that it had opened an investigation into an incident last month that caused thousands of dollars worth of damage to Tiller's clinic, Women's Health Care Services at 5107 E. Kellogg.

Police records also show that Tiller, 67, received a threatening letter at his clinic, which was turned over to police, two days after the vandalism incident.

On Monday, investigators searched two homes in the Kansas City area as part of the probe into Tiller's death. The man arrested in connection with the shooting was from that area.

While Wichita police have not identified the man in custody, Johnson County authorities identified him as 51-year-old Scott P. Roeder of Merriam. Sedgwick County Jail records on Monday showed a man in custody with that name and address. He was being held on suspicion of first-degree murder and aggravated assault, according to the records.

Roeder was arrested about three hours after Tiller was shot, along I-35 in Johnson County.

In a briefing outside the Sedgwick County Courthouse on Monday, District Attorney Nola Foulston said that the case against the man in custody would be handled by her office.

"We have taken that jurisdiction, and this case will be a state case," Foulston said. "We may be getting assistance from outside federal individuals who may have been involved. However, the case is in this jurisdiction."

Formal charges were expected against the man on Monday. But Foulston said authorities have two days to make a determination on whether to charge a person in custody before requesting an extension from the court.

"We will not be rushed," she said. "There's no need to rush."

Responding to a question about the possibility of a capital murder charge in the case, Foulston said:

"Everything will be reviewed (to determine)... what statutes might be applicable in making a final decision on this case before it's brought to the court."

According to state law, the death penalty may only be charged when an adult is convicted of pre-meditated first-degree murder under one of seven circumstances, none of which seem to fit Tiller's death.

Threat, vandalism

A letter threatening Tiller's life was reported to Wichita police early last month, but authorities on Monday would not say whether it was connected to the man arrested as a suspect in Sunday's slaying.

The letter was reported to police on May 4, two days after a staff member also reported extensive vandalism to Women's Health Care Services, the clinic at 5107 E. Kellogg where late-term abortions are performed.

Dan Monnat, one of Tiller's attorneys, said wires to security cameras were cut and that vandals also cut through the roof and plugged the building's downspouts. Rain poured through the hole in the roof and caused several thousand dollars worth of damage.

Tiller had asked the FBI to investigate the incident.

"We do have an open investigation into the vandalism at that clinic," Bridget Patton, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Kansas City, Mo., said Monday She would not elaborate.

Security for doctors

Holder's order for increased security at some abortion clinics and for abortion doctors came early Monday morning.

Jeff Carter, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service, confirmed the decision "to increase security for a number of individuals and facilities."

Citing U.S. Marshals policy, Carter would not describe who was being protected, or what security measures were being taken.

There have been increasing incidents of threats against judges and other public figures in recent years. The Marshals provide security to federal judges, juries, and trial witnesses, but it is unusual for them to guard private citizens outside the federal court system.

Tiller last had protection from the U.S. Marshals in 2001, during the anniversary of the "Summer of Mercy" protests, and other doctors received such protection at different points in the 1990s.

Such protection can be ordered by a judge or the attorney general.

Homes searched

A law enforcement official on Monday said investigators searched two homes as part of the inquiry into Tiller's killing.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the investigation, said the homes are in Merriam, Kan., and in Kansas City, Mo. The official did not know what turned up during the searches.

Roeder's former wife, Lindsey Roeder, said he had lived at a house in Merriam but moved out months ago and was currently living in the Westport area of Kansas City.

David Roeder, a brother of the suspect, said in a statement to the Topeka Capital-Journal that the family is "shocked, horrified and filled with sadness at the death of Dr. Tiller" and the possible involvement of Roeder.

"We know Scott as a kind and loving son, brother and father who suffered from mental illness at various times in his life. However, none of us ever saw Scott as a person capable of or willing to take another person's life," the statement said.

Scene at church, clinic

Activity was relatively quiet at Tiller's church and clinic Monday afternoon.

There was light media presence at both locations, where visitors would occasionally stop by to drop off floral bouquets.

An officer sat in a police car that was parked in the drive at Tiller's clinic. Several police officers and detectives were seen going into the clinic and then leaving after a short time.

Hutchinson resident Janean Lanier and her daughter, Jennifer Voth, came to the clinic to place a bouquet along the privacy fence.

"We just felt like we needed to do something to honor what Dr. Tiller has done for women in need," said Lanier, who said she is a supporter of women's rights. "He put his life on the line. It's just too bad this had to happen."

Just a few feet from where Lanier and her daughter placed their flowers, a sign read:

"The Kansas Coalition for Life respects every human life, including the life of Abortionist Tiller. We prayed for his conversion to the prolife viewpoint, not for his murder." It was signed Mark S. Gietzen, who leads the coalition, which opposes abortion.

Within the dozens of bouquets was one with a handwritten note from a girl who described herself as almost 8 years old. She addressed the note to Tiller's family, and wrote that Tiller delivered her dad in 1971.

"Sorry for your loss," she wrote.

Reaction continues

Meanwhile, organizations across Wichita continued Monday to issue statements on the shooting.

One was Tiller's church, Reformation Lutheran Church, 7601 E. 13th St., which said it was "shocked and deeply saddened by the violent murder of Dr. George Tiller, a longtime member of our congregation.... "

"We deplore the violence that took place within the walls of our church. Further, we reject any notion that violence against another human being is an acceptable way to resolve differences over any issue. We must always strive to engage in peaceful discussion. Our faith calls us to this. Our humanity demands it."

The Board of Interfaith Ministries of Wichita issued a statement that said the group was praying for the Tiller family, the church, the community and the suspect.

"We call all persons to let this horrible incident cause us all to reflect on how we can live together as the people of God, even though we may disagree on various issues, and work together to prevent such incidents in the future," the statement said.

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