Amish School Shooter's Widow, Marie Monville, Speaks Out

Monville says on that day her husband was, 'absolutely mentally ill.'

ByABC News
September 30, 2013, 8:31 AM

Sept. 30, 2013 -- The wife of the man who stormed into a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster County, Pa., seven years ago, shooting 10 schoolgirls, five of them fatally, will never forget the phone call she got from her husband early that morning.

He said she would never see him again, and she pleaded with him to come home and talk to her, even though she had no idea of the horror he was about to unleash.

The crime stunned the nation, not only because of the brutality against young children, but because it took place in traditional Christian community whose residents are known for their peaceable ways and avoidance of the modern world.

The gunman was Charles Roberts, a father of three and husband. Roberts, his wife, Marie, and their children lived one mile away from the school.

His then-wife -- who has since remarried and taken the last name Monville -- is now talking about the tragedy that changed so many lives, including her own.

In an interview with ABC News' Amy Robach, Monville, 35, was asked if she knew why her husband did what he did.

Monville described Roberts as an even-tempered man who had periodic, brief bouts of depression. She said they'd grown a bit distant from each other in their marriage, but had no inkling that her 32-year-old husband could commit such an act.

On the morning of Oct. 2, 2006, Roberts, a milk truck driver, saw his children off to the school bus and kissed his wife goodbye before leaving the house, but three hours later, he called to tell Marie that he was never coming home, and that he'd left her a letter. His voice sounded "flat and lifeless."

She immediately became alarmed, and pleaded with him to reconsider what he was about to do. Monville told Robach she thought he was going to commit suicide.

'It Was Too Late'

"I just thought it was something that he was doing to himself," she said. "I had no idea that it was going to involve other people. And he didn't allude to that on the phone in any way."

She recalled that she was "begging him" to come home and talk, but "he was telling me that it was too late."

In his letter to her, her husband wrote about the loss of their first daughter, Elise, in 1997, Monville said. Elise, the couple's first child, died 20 minutes after being born three months premature.

"And in some way he felt like he was getting back at the Lord for the loss that we had sustained," she said.

He also told her that he'd molested two family members decades ago, but Monville said police investigated that claim and could not prove it.

When she read the letter, she called 911 because she felt something bad was going to happen to her husband.

That morning, she heard sirens blaring. Police cars were passing by, and helicopters were flying overhead. When police knocked on her door, her dread intensified.

"When I opened the door I said to them 'It's Charlie, isn't it?' And they said 'yes.' And I said, 'and he's dead, isn't he?' And they said 'yes,'" she said.

When she learned that he hadn't just killed himself, but had shot little girls, she cried. Police were positive her husband was responsible, and she believed them.

"There were so many things to do, and so many questions to answer," she said.

Roberts had reportedly ordered the male teacher and male students out of the schoolroom at West Nickel Mines Amish School, along with a pregnant woman and parents with young children. Police say he barricaded himself in the room with the female students, lined them up against the blackboard, and shot them.