A Missouri legislator faces expulsion from the state’s House of Representatives after an investigation by fellow lawmakers concluded that he had physically and sexually abused his children.
After hearing testimony from his family and reviewing hundreds of pages of documents, the Missouri House Ethics Committee wrote a report finding that the lawmaker, Rick Roeber, physically abused his children, sexually abused one at age 9 and another at age 5, and once “drowned a litter of puppies in a nearby pond.”
On Monday, the committee unanimously recommended Mr. Roeber’s expulsion, writing that “the State of Missouri has failed these children for over 20 years.” The House is expected to vote on the measure this week.
Mr. Roeber, a Republican, offered to resign earlier this month, but the House rejected his resignation.
“It’s far more important that we do all we can to seek justice for his children and to ensure he never again causes harm to another child,” Rob Vescovo, the House speaker, and Travis Fitzwater, the Ethics Committee chairman, said in a statement last week. “His resignation allows him to walk away from his duties as a representative, but we cannot allow him to once again walk away from the children he victimized.”
Mr. Roeber’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
The committee’s report from the investigation credited The Kansas City Star for a September 2020 article in which two of Mr. Roeber’s adult children said they had been abused by him. The Star’s report was published before the November 2020 election, which prompted several lawmakers to call for Mr. Roeber to withdraw his candidacy.
He denied all the allegations and refused to drop out of the race.
In his testimony before the committee, Mr. Roeber denied physically or sexually abusing his children, all of whom are now adults. He said that he was an alcoholic, but that he had not consumed alcohol since 1992.
Mr. Roeber also said that his children’s testimony was part of a “political hit” and that his children were Democrats, and agreed he was implying that “Democrats would accuse their fathers” of such abuse for political reasons.
Mr. Roeber was “combative, defensive, defiant and at times angry” in his appearance before the committee, according to the report, which did not give the names of Mr. Roeber’s adult children. The report said it found his testimony “to be not credible” and noted that under state law, there is no statute of limitations for “a sexual offense committed against a minor.”
In testimony before the committee, one of the lawmaker’s children said that Mr. Roeber had been a “severe alcoholic,” and that he would drink until he blacked out, according to the report.
“To have someone that you are trusting as your parent to treat you in that manner and to not treat you like a child” takes away your innocence, the person said.
The person described once disclosing the abuse to Mr. Roeber’s wife, the person’s mother, who called the police, but said that no criminal charges were filed.
The person testified that Mr. Roeber had said if anyone was told about the abuse, “he would be in a lot of trouble, he would go to jail and our family would be ruined.”
Another one of the lawmaker’s children testified that the household was “very chaotic always,” and that the family endured a “hellish nightmare” because of Mr. Roeber, whom the person described as someone who was “always with a beer in hand.”
The person said that Mr. Roeber had attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, but that the violence in the home did not stop after the legislator started going to the meetings. The person visits a therapist monthly because of conditions related to Mr. Roeber’s abuse, the report said.
Before becoming a state representative, Mr. Roeber worked as a Sprint project manager for 20 years, and as a chaplain for a “Christ-centered” rescue shelter in Kansas City, Mo.
After a later wife, State Representative Rebecca Roeber, died in 2019, Mr. Roeber ran to fill her seat representing Missouri’s 34th District. Mr. Roeber was elected last November.
After the election, three of Mr. Roeber’s now-adult children wrote to the speaker-elect of the House of Representatives about the abuse they said they had experienced from Mr. Roeber, and asked the House to determine whether he was fit to serve as a representative.
“Please do what is right, not just for us, but for all those in Missouri who have suffered, and all the children you have sworn to protect,” the three wrote.
In January, two Missouri state representatives filed formal complaints about ethical misconduct by Mr. Roeber and requested an investigation into his children’s allegations. The Missouri House Ethics Committee met several times from February through April.
If the Missouri House votes to expel Mr. Roeber, he would become only the second member of the state’s house to be expelled, according to The Kansas City Star, which has covered developments in the Roeber investigation for months. The first Missouri House member to be expelled was for disloyalty to the Union in 1865, according to the newspaper.
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