WICHITA, Kan. — Scott Roeder harbored a burning, "eye-for-an-eye" anger toward abortion doctors. He once subscribed to a magazine suggesting "justifiable homicide" against them, and apparently likened Dr. George Tiller to Nazi death-camp doctor Josef Mengele.
Roeder, 51, was in jail Monday on suspicion of murder, accused of shooting Tiller to death Sunday as the doctor served as an usher at his Lutheran church in Wichita.
Police said it appears the gunman acted alone, and some anti-abortion groups moved quickly to distance themselves from the killing. Outside Tiller's clinic, the Kansas Coalition for Life placed signs saying members had prayed for Tiller's change of heart, "not his murder."
Roeder's ex-wife said his extreme antigovernment beliefs contributed to the breakup of their marriage more than a decade ago. Roeder's brother said he 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. Our deepest regrets, prayers and sympathy go out to the Tiller family during this terrible time," his brother, David, said in a statement.
Roeder's family life began unraveling more than a decade ago when he got involved with antigovernment groups, then became "very religious in an Old Testament, eye-for-an-eye way," said his former wife, Lindsey Roeder.
"The antitax stuff came first, and then it grew and grew. He became very antiabortion," said Lindsey Roeder, who was married to Scott Roeder for 10 years but "strongly disagrees with his beliefs."
"That's all he cared about is antiabortion. 'The church is this. God is this,' " she said.
Lindsey Roeder said that the early years of the marriage were good and that Scott Roeder worked in an envelope factory. But she said he moved out of their home after he became involved with the Freemen movement, an antigovernment group that discouraged the paying of taxes. The Roeders have one son, now 22.
In 1996, Roeder (pronounced ROW-der) was arrested in Topeka after being stopped by sheriff's deputies because his car lacked a valid license plate. Instead, it bore a tag declaring him a "sovereign" and immune from state law. In the trunk, deputies found materials that could be assembled into a bomb.
He was convicted and sentenced to two years on probation. The Kansas Court of Appeals overturned his conviction in 1997, ruling that authorities seized evidence during an illegal search of his car.