Amish Schoolgirls Laid To Rest - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

10/5/06-Georgetown, PA

Amish Schoolgirls Laid To Rest

A handmade sign of support hangs outside a home about a mile from the site of the funerals. A handmade sign of support hangs outside a home about a mile from the site of the funerals.
A police photo shows Charles Carl Roberts IV, who carried out the rampage Monday at the Amish schoolhouse. A police photo shows Charles Carl Roberts IV, who carried out the rampage Monday at the Amish schoolhouse.
A horse and buggy carries mourners to victims' funerals Thursday in Georgetown, Pennsylvania. A horse and buggy carries mourners to victims' funerals Thursday in Georgetown, Pennsylvania.

Horse-drawn carriages carried mourners through the quiet town of Georgetown, Pennsylvania, past the home of gunman Charles Carl Roberts IV, as funeral services were held Thursday for the girls he killed at an Amish schoolhouse.

As is the custom in their closed society, the families of four of the five girls killed Monday are holding funerals in their homes prior to burial later in the day.

A funeral for the fifth victim is set for Friday.

About a mile from one of the funeral sites -- on a cool, clear day -- horses pulled buggies past the home that Roberts shared with his wife and three children.

The killer's grandparents-in-law, Lloyd and Lorraine Welk, watched the passage of the mourners' buggies from outside Roberts' home.

Lorraine Welk sat in a chair crying, as her husband comforted her, along with other members of the extended family.

Handmade signs outside one home read: "Our thoughts and prayers to all the families," and "Private property, keep out."

Thursday's funerals were scheduled for Naomi Rose Ebersole, 7; Marian Fisher, 13; Mary Liz Miller, 8; and her sister Lena Miller, 7, according to The Associated Press.

Anna Mae Stoltzfus, 12, is to be buried Friday, AP reported.

Five other girls who were victims of the shooting remained hospitalized -- three in critical condition and two in serious condition. They ranged in age from 6 to 13.

Roberts, 32, shot the 10 girls Monday and then committed suicide as police stormed the schoolhouse. The truck driver brought lubricating jelly and plastic restraints with him, and may have been planning to sexually assault the Amish girls, police said.

Service 'quiet, sober, somber'

Wes Yoder, who said he grew up in the area with many Amish cousins, has been reaching out to the closed Amish community to offer comfort and to act as a liaison with the public.

He said a grandfather of one of the victims was instructing his children and grandchildren to forgive as they embalmed the body of one of the girls, preparing it for burial.

"I talked with two young men and took them around to each of the farms where the girls' families live," Yoder said. "These are two of the young men who have dug the graves now. They were going around and communicating the funeral arrangements to other family members."

"It's a very quiet and sober and somber service that will be held in the homes," he said. "The bodies are even prepared in the homes for burial."

Typically there are two or three Amish preachers who will speak at each service, Yoder said, probably in the traditional Amish-German dialect.

There will be a service in each home and then once that service is completed, the body will be taken in a procession to the Amish cemetery for burial, Yoder said.

About 300 to 500 people are expected at each funeral, said Philip W. Furman, an undertaker, according to AP. In keeping with custom, the Amish use simple wooden caskets -- narrow at the head and feet and wider in the middle. An Amish girl is typically laid to rest in a white dress, a cape, and a white prayer-covering on her head, Furman said.

Others who have attended traditional Amish burials say mourners often circle around a hand-dug grave and lower the casket into the ground by hand with ropes. Family members then throw dirt on the coffin.

"I asked various Amish friends what message do you want to communicate to people around the world and they said, 'We want them to understand how rich and deep our friendships and family relationships can be, and while we don't have insurance and we don't enjoy many modern conveniences, we have the richest treasure in the world and that is brotherly love.'"

Amish mourners have been going from home to home for the past two days to attend viewings for the victims, all little girls laid out in white dresses made by their families, according to AP. Such viewings occur almost immediately after the bodies arrive at the parents' homes.

Typically, they are so crowded, "if you start crying, you've got to figure out whose shoulder to cry on," said Rita Rhoads, a Mennonite midwife who delivered two of the five girls slain in the attack, AP reported.

Reaching out

The Amish have also been reaching out to Roberts' family. Dwight Lefever, a Roberts family spokesman, said an Amish neighbor comforted the Roberts family hours after the shooting and extended forgiveness to them, AP reported.

"I hope they stay around here, and they'll have a lot of friends and a lot of support," Daniel Esh, a 57-year-old Amish artist and woodworker whose three grandnephews were inside the school during the attack, said of the Roberts family, according to AP.

Police said Roberts revealed to his family in notes he left behind and in a phone call from inside the West Nickel Mines Amish School that he was tormented by memories of molesting two young relatives 20 years ago.

A deputy county coroner on Wednesday described a gruesome scene at the school, with blood on every desk, every window broken and the body of a girl slumped beneath the chalkboard, below a sign that read "Visitors Brighten People's Days," AP reported. Roberts' body was facedown next to the teacher's desk.

CNN's Shannon Troetel contributed to this report.

Copyright 2006 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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