Kansas man pleads not guilty in slaying of abortion doctor | world | Hindustan Times
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Kansas man pleads not guilty in slaying of abortion doctor

An anti-abortion activist pleaded not guilty to gunning down a controversial provider of late-term abortions in his Kansas church, local media reported.

world Updated: Jul 29, 2009 12:16 IST

An anti-abortion activist on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to gunning down a controversial provider of late-term abortions in his Kansas church, local media reported.

Scott Roeder did not speak at his preliminary hearing and had his public defender enter the not guilty plea on his behalf.

Roeder, a 51-year-old Kansas City area resident with a history of mental problems and links to anti-abortion groups, is charged with the May 31 murder of George Tiller.

Tiller, 67, was a lightning rod in the nation's culture wars over abortion and had already been shot in the arms and seen his Kansas clinic bombed, vandalized and targeted by decades of protests before he was gunned down in the foyer of his Wichita church.

Just two other clinics in the United States are believed to provide the late-term procedure, which is legal in many states only when a doctor determines that an abortion is necessary to preserve the health or life of the mother.

One witness was forced to choke back tears as he recalled seeing Roeder shoot Tiller, who was greeting latecomers while serving as an usher at Reformation Lutheran Church.

"He walked over and put a gun right up to George's head and shot him," Gary Hoepner told the court.

"I wasn't sure if it was a cap gun or what and then George fell... I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It was surreal."

Hoepner said he chased Roeder out of the church, but backed off when Roeder looked over his shoulder and yelled, "I've got a gun, and I'll shoot you."

Another witness, Keith Martin, chased Roeder through the parking lot and yelled "how could you do that?"

Martin testified that Roeder said "'because he's a murderer' or 'a killer' - something like that" and then threatened to shoot Martin if he did not get out of the way of Roeder's powder blue Ford Taurus.

Police were able to track Roeder down a few hours later after broadcasting his license plate number to officers in three states.