Suspect pleads not guilty in abortion doctor's slaying

WICHITA, Kan. — Gary Hoepner paused to choke back tears Tuesday as he told a judge of George Tiller's last moments of life.

Hoepner was grabbing a doughnut at the snack table in the lobby of Reformation Lutheran Church on the last Sunday in May.

On the other side stood Tiller, the doctor whose abortion procedures had led to years of protests and disruptions outside the church.

A man then walked up, put a gun to Tiller's forehead and pulled the trigger, Hoepner said.

During a preliminary hearing Tuesday, Hoepner pointed to Scott Roeder as the man with the gun.

Roeder, 51, pleaded not guilty through his public defenders.

At the end of the hearing, a judge concluded that there was sufficient evidence to try Roeder for first-degree murder.

"It was surreal," Hoepner said. "It sounded like a little popgun."

Then Tiller fell.

Hoepner said he followed Roeder outside. As Hoepner ran across the grass, he said, Roeder looked over his shoulder and yelled, "I've got a gun, and I'll shoot you."

"I don't argue with a man with a gun," Hoepner said.

Keith Martin, another usher, said he was gazing out a window when he heard what sounded like someone setting a firecracker off in the church. Then he saw Tiller fall.

Out the window, he saw a man running through the parking lot. He testified that he chased Roeder through the parking lot.

"How could you do that?" Martin said he yelled at Roeder.

Martin remembered Roeder saying "because he's a murderer" or "a killer — something like that."

When Roeder jumped in his car, Martin was standing in front of the powder blue Ford Taurus, about two car lengths away.

"Move," Martin said Roeder yelled.

Martin froze.

Roeder pulled out a handgun.

"I'll shoot you," Martin testified Roeder said. Martin moved.

Thornton Anderson, another church member, testified he saw three men running to the parking lot.

"Get the tag number," Hoepner said he yelled.

Anderson said he saw a car roaring toward and past him about 6 to 8 feet away, and he could see the tag clearly. He could still recall it from memory Tuesday.

"225 BAB," Anderson said.

Suspect pleads not guilty in abortion doctor's slaying 07/28/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 29, 2009 12:35am]

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