Story of Hope: A Killer’s Wife Speaks

When I bring 5-pound bags of Wenger’s famous ham-loaf frozen from Pennsylvania to Florida, the plastic-coated tubs of meat are wrapped in newspaper and then shrink-wrapped in plastic. The wrapping on one of the packages (we need two to feed the clan now!) revealed the riveting story of Marie Monville, the widow of Amish school house shooter Charlie Roberts.

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What Happened

In a story that brought international attention to Lancaster County, Charles Roberts methodically shot ten Amish girls inside a one-room school-house, killing five, injuring five others, and then turning the gun on himself. Roberts’ wife Marie learned of the impending massacre through a letter Charles left for her directing her to his final phone call, which revealed the unresolved feelings he harbored after the deaths of two of his daughters, one a premature birth and the other an ectopic pregnancy. Though the couple went on to have three healthy children, the loss of Elise and Isabella, he says in the letter, “changed my life forever. I am filled with so much hate, hate toward myself, hate toward God, and unimaginable emptiness.”

Immediately After

Because he hid his clinical depression so well, Marie had no signs her husband was so deeply disturbed and headed for a psychotic break-down. Even the police queried, “Were there any signs of violence before the shooting?”  She also feared what the public may be thinking: Are you a liar, covering up a failure to act? Are you an idiot, blind to the obvious? But Marie had been blind-sided.

Her own family and her husband’s family were “stalwart,” Marie writes. “A beloved aunt and uncle gave her family a place to hide out from the media in their own home in Lititz, Pennsylvania, comforting and feeding them in their darkest hours.

Forgiveness from the Amish Community

1. Just hours after the horrible shooting, Marie’s father greeted a group of Amish men who knocked on the door. She writes: 

An Amish man with a long gray beard stepped toward my father and opened his arms wide. My father fell into those arms, his shoulders heaving, held and comforted by a friend. Grief met grief.

2. Shielding the family from the media, “the families of the slain girls went to the cemetery for Roberts’ burial. They also went to a meeting at the Bart Fire Hall for families and first responders, sharing their feelings” and saying they were praying for Marie and her children.

Her Book

Marie Roberts Monville intersperses her account of the tragedy with the story of her own life in rural Lancaster County and tells as a teen-ager meeting Charlie Roberts, the grandson of a church friend, at a dinner one day. After marriage, they had three children, aged 7, 5, and 18 months old at the time of the tragedy which occurred over seven years ago at Nickel Mines.

OneLightStillShines

One Light,” written from a Christian perspective, shows how the author’s faith in God has sustained her through unimaginable grief and brought healing. Now re-married, she is a stay-at-home Mom and blogger on whisperandwonder with the subtitle “quiet musings from my heart.” Marie wrote the book to tell her true story of how horror and tragedy met love and forgiveness. She also seeks to connect with readers who are in the midst of suffering by posing the question:

What is your story? Mistreatment, injustice, torment, suffering, grief or even the worst that humanity can do to one another? Receive the gift of love. And when again the lights go out, you too will see that one light still shines.

Though her experience is similar in some ways to that of Marina Oswald, wife of President Kennedy’s assassin, Marie Roberts Monville has refused to become a pariah, but now lives life to the fullest, sharing light and hope.

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Do you know someone who has survive trauma and grief?

Do you have a story of survival of your own to tell?

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16 thoughts on “Story of Hope: A Killer’s Wife Speaks

    1. Yes, the immediate forgiveness demonstrated by the Amish community right after the tragedy, and then Marie’s eventual acceptance and healing – both have great power to change lives. She still has many speaking engagements where she recounts her inspiring story. I noticed on her website that she is speaking at another woman’s group today.

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    1. Forgiveness is the path to true joy. It combats so many negative emotions: violence, bitterness, revenge. But I’m preaching to the choir here. Thank you, Laurie, for spreading cheer and goodwill from your heart.

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  1. You write a compelling story. I recall the Amish community’s act of kindness and forgiveness. I admired them for their strength and putting their faith into practice. Up until I was 8, I lived in Pennsylvania with my parents and Grammy. We attended a Dunkard church as it was the nearest one to where we lived. The folks there were very welcoming and also lived a plain life.

    Thank you for stopping by my blog and commenting.

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    1. In addition to some similarities in our paths, I notice that our last names fall one letter short of being identical. Thanks for stopping by to comment; I always appreciate replies.

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  2. Thank you for this, Marian. The path of forgiveness is always the better way but most certainly not always the easiest one. I learned that lesson well when I went through an abyss of my own years ago. I’m going to hop over and check out Marie’s blog and book now.

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    1. Since I don’t subscribe to the Lancaster paper here in Florida, I didn’t know about the glorious follow-up story until I discovered the wrappings on my ham-loaf package. Something so wonderful from an horrific experience. It is a “God” thing for sure.

      By now you must be all un-packed and snug as a bug in a rug in your Canadian nest.

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  3. Very well done, Marian. I remember when this happened. It was later the center of a college discussion about resolution, restitution and revenge, and the legal, personal and spiritual perspectives within all three. Not long ago was a television movie on the event and responses, too, which elicited numerous responses and reactions. Thanks for the information about Monville’s book.

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  4. Marie Monville is a brave soul and proves that nothing in one’s experience is ever wasted, even the bad, (the absolutely unthinkable) as in this case. I think PBS aired a documentary on the event some time ago. Also, Mennonite author John Ruth wrote a reflection on the incident entitled Forgiveness: A Legacy of the West Nickel Mines Amish School. Thanks for mentioning the college discussions; I am sure they were others.

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  5. I am thankful that I do not have a story of that type of grief to share. It is almost unimaginable, and yet she has come through it. I remember reading about how the Amish community forgave and shared their grief.

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    1. I think we all heard the news when the story broke, but until I found the newspaper article a few weeks ago, I had no idea that so much good came from such an horrific act. Marie’s book, blog posts and speaking engagements still spread her message of hope.

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