Courts & Crime

Witnesses to abortion doctor's shooting testify in trial

Two minutes and three seconds after the first 911 call, Wichita police had the name of a suspect in the George Tiller shooting. A witness relayed the tag number on the getaway car to a dispatcher who matched the car to Scott Roeder and forwarded his name to police.

As evidence in Roeder's first-degree murder trial got under way Friday, defense lawyers made little effort to dispute the claim that Roeder shot Tiller in the lobby of Reformation Lutheran Church on May 31.

Prosecutors struggled, at times, to keep abortion out of the discussion and tried to focus on evidence that showed that Roeder pressed a .22-caliber pistol against Tiller's forehead and fired the shot that killed him.

But everyone in the courtroom — including the jury, apparently — was aware of the fact that Tiller was one of the nation's most prominent abortion doctors, and that Roeder was an outspoken abortion opponent.

Roeder has publicly confessed to shooting Tiller, telling the media in November that he killed Tiller to protect the unborn.

"I think every single juror said they were aware of the case," defense lawyer Mark Rudy said as he argued unsuccessfully for a change of venue at the start of the trial. "They were aware of Dr. Tiller. They were aware of his profession."

As testimony began, witnesses told the jury that Roeder had been at Reformation Lutheran Church at 7601 E. 13th St., just west of Rock Road, at least twice before the day of the shooting.

He was there on the previous Sunday, when Tiller was not in attendance.

And he was there six months earlier, church member Paul Ryding testified. Ryding said he had a "very awkward" exchange with Roeder after services that day.

"He did not participate in any portion of the worship service," Ryding testified. "I certainly had the feeling there was an agenda there."

"What kind of agenda?" Rudy asked.

"He was not there to worship," Ryding said. "There was another agenda."


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