School killer was 'ordinary, loving man'

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The Independent US

The US gunman who stormed a one-room Amish school in Pennsylvania was an ordinary man and a devoted father and showed few signs of trouble in the days before the attack, according to several people who knew him.

And today Marie Roberts, the wife of Charles Roberts, the 32-year-old man accused of shooting students at an Amish school, said in a statement: "The man who did this was not the Charlie I've been married to for almost 10 years.

"My husband was loving, supportive and thoughtful - all the things you'd always want and more.

"He was an exceptional father. He took the kids to soccer and games, played ball in the backyard and took our seven-year-old daughter shopping. He never said no when I asked him to change a diaper.

"Our hearts are broken, our lives shattered and we grieve for the innocent lives that were lost. Above all, please pray. Pray for the families who lost children today. Please pray for our family and children."

Neighbours and family members saw no indication of problems that would lead Roberts to open fire yesterday on a dozen young girls in Nickel Mines.

"Absolutely not," said Lois Fiester, a relative of Roberts who was standing outside the family's modest ranch house. "They're a fine Christian family. It's ironic and it's heartbreaking."

When the shooting stopped, at least three of the girls were dead. At least seven others were wounded, some critically. And Roberts had killed himself.

State police hinted that Roberts was motivated by a childhood grudge, but they refused to divulge details, citing concern for other people involved.

Investigators also said they were looking into the possibility the attack may have been related to the death of one of Roberts' own children. According to an obituary, Roberts and his wife lost a daughter shortly after she was born in 1997.

Another neighbour, Dorothy Rineer, 83, said Roberts' wife had grown up in the neighbourhood. Roberts, a truck driver who worked the night shift picking up milk from farms, also came from south-eastern Lancaster County, she said.

"He was just an ordinary person," she said.

State police Commissioner Jeffrey Miller said it was clear from interviews with co-workers at the dairy that Roberts' mood had darkened in recent days and he had stopped chatting and joking around with employees and customers.

Land O'Lakes, based in Arden Hills, Minnesota, issued a statement confirming Roberts was employed as a truck driver and assigned to Northwest Food Products, a wholly owned Land O'Lakes subsidiary.

No one answered the door at the Roberts' home yesterday.

Firewood and children's toys, including two play guns, were on the porch. In the living room, visible through the front door, was a plaque reading "God Bless This House" and exercise equipment. A sand box and trampoline were in the back yard.

Josh Zook, an Amish man who lives three doors down, said: "I have no reason to think anything negative about him. It's just horrible."

Zook was still waiting to hear whether one of his own relatives had been a victim in the attack. "I just want to go up there with a bulldozer and bulldoze that school down," he said.