When Homeschoolers Turn Violent: Charles Carl Roberts
Series note: “When Homeschoolers Turn Violent” is a joint research project by Homeschoolers Anonymous and Homeschooling’s Invisible Children. Please see the Introduction for detailed information about the purpose and scope of the project.
Trigger warning: If you experience triggers from descriptions of physical and sexual violence, please know that the details in many of the cases are disturbing and graphic.
Charles Carl Roberts
On October 2, 2006, 32-year-old Charles Carl Roberts IV barricaded himself and ten young female hostages into an Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. He proceeded to shoot the girls one at a time, execution-style. By the time the police broke into the schoolhouse, he had wounded 5 girls, mortally wounded 2, and killed 3. He then shot and killed himself.
Charles was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania to his father Chuck, a retired police officer who became a taxi driver for the Amish community, and his mother Terri. Charles never attended public schools, receiving his high school diploma from a homeschool association. 20 years before his rampage and suicide, when he was only 12 years old, Charles molested two of his relatives — girls between the ages of 3 and 5. This would haunt Charles for the rest of his life, and he reportedly was tormented by “dreams of molesting again” around the time of the rampage and suicide.
After graduating from high school, Charles worked a number of jobs, ranging from dishwasher at Good N’ Plenty Restaurant to a commercial milk tank driver for North West Foods. In 1996, Charles married Marie Lynn Welk at Highview Church of God. A year after their wedding, Marie gave birth to Elise Victoria, who tragically died shortly after birth. Elise’s death would also haunt Charles until the day he died. Charlie and Marie later had 3 more kids, who ranged from ages 7 to 1 1/2 on the day Charlie killed himself. Marie described her husband as “loving, supportive, thoughtful” and “an exceptional father,” and Terri similarly described her son as “an excellent family man.” After her son died, Terri mourned that, “I had no idea anything like this was going to happen.”
On the day in question, Charles drove his own children to school then returned home and left handwritten notes to his family. He then drove to and entered West Nickel Mines School, a one-room Amish school house in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. He came prepared with a vast inventory of equipment and weaponry: a handgun, shotgun, and rifle; 600 rounds of ammunition; black powder, a stun gun, knives, pliers, wires, and wooden planks. He let 15 male students out of the schoolhouse as well as a pregnant woman and three parents with infants. Remaining with him were 10 young female students, ranging in age from 6 to 13. He tied up the 10 girls together. While he “appeared to have plans to molest [the] children” on account of bringing a bottle of sexual lubricant with him, the police arrived almost immediately and no signs of sexual assault were found later. Instead, as soon as the police arrived, Charles’ plans were thrown in disarray. He called his wife on his cellphone and told her for the first time about how he had molested his relatives when he was 12. He also told her he was surrounded by the police. He then proceeded to shoot his young hostages and kill himself.
In 2013, 7 years after Charles’s rampage and death, his mother Terri channeled her feelings of grief and guilt into helping others, including one of her son’s own victims. She spends time with and caring for 13-year-old Rosanna, who sits in a wheelchair and eats through a tube on account of Charles’s attack.
View the case index here.