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Amish join killer's funeral

Man is buried next to infant daughter's grave

The grave site of Charles Carl Roberts IV is shown next to the memorial for his daughter, Elise Victoria, Saturday.
The grave site of Charles Carl Roberts IV is shown next to the memorial for his daughter, Elise Victoria, Saturday.
George Widman, Associated Press

GEORGETOWN, Pa. — Under somber gray skies, the killer who shocked the conscience of the world was laid to rest Saturday next to the grave of his infant daughter, whose death had tormented him for nine years.

At the graveside services, about 30 members of the Amish community joined nearly 40 other mourners who had come together to remember Charles Carl Roberts IV, a milk-truck driver who burst into a one-room Amish schoolhouse Monday, killing five schoolgirls and wounding five others.

In suicide notes and last calls to his wife, Roberts said that he was tormented by memories of molesting two young relatives 20 years ago, and that he never recovered from the death of his first-born child, Elise.

His hatred toward God started at that moment, and it led to the explosion of violence in the West Nickel Mines Amish School.

The 26-car funeral procession, led by a hearse from Bachman Funeral Home in nearby Strasburg, arrived at Georgetown United Methodist Church cemetery shortly after 11 a.m. A green tent had been erected to shelter the mourners.

Bruce Porter, a nondenominational pastor who is a chaplain with the Inter-Canyon Fire Department in Morrison, Colo., witnessed the service. He said all three of Roberts' children — Abigail, 7, Bryce, 5, and Carson, 1 — had attended.

"It was deeply moving," Porter said of the condolences expressed by the Amish to the Roberts family. "It was a display of Christ's love as I've never seen it."

Porter, who arrived in the area Thursday, said he had ministered at many of the tragedies seared into the nation's memory — Columbine, ground zero after Sept. 11, and the schoolhouse shooting in Bailey, Colo., late last month. He said he was in Georgetown to offer his counsel to the firefighters and first responders.

"The love expressed by this community is uncommon," he said. "The most moving thing was to see the love and grace extended by the Amish."

There were no elaborate flower arrangements, Porter said, only single flowers that mourners laid across the casket. By 12:20 p.m., workers at the cemetery started taking down the tent.

Unlike earlier in the week, when the world media descended on this quiet village for the horse-and-buggy funeral processions of the five Amish girls — Marian Fisher, 13; Anna Mae Stoltzfus, 12; Naomi Rose Ebersol, 7; and sisters Mary Liz Miller, 8, and Lena Miller, 7 — few reporters watched the Roberts service.

The dozen or so fire police outnumbered representatives of the media, and not a satellite-TV truck was in sight.

Still, widow Marie Roberts was touched by the forgiveness displayed in the Amish community, Porter said.

"She was absolutely deeply moved, by just the love shown," he said.

Life in Georgetown Saturday was slowly returning to normal.

Leaders of the local Amish gathered in the afternoon at a firehouse to decide the future of the schoolhouse, and of the school year itself. The prevailing wisdom suggested a new school would be built.

"There will definitely be a new school built, but not on that property," said Mike Hart, spokesman for the Bart Fire Company in Georgetown. Hart is also one of two non-Amish community members on a 10-member board that will decide how to distribute donations that have come in after the global news coverage.

An Amish horse and buggy pulled up to the Coatesville Savings Bank, and a man jumped out and dropped in a deposit in the night depository.

Down the street, auctioneer Miller & Siegrist was selling off a house and its contents. Another auction was going on behind the fire hall.

The sign at Georgetown United Methodist Church said it all: "Keep praying."