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Amazing courage of twisted killer’s 13-year-old Amish victim
By Ryan Parry

THE astonishing bravery of the girls slain in the Amish school massacre was revealed yesterday.

Family members told how the oldest pupil, Marian Fisher, 13, stepped forward and asked gunman Charles Roberts to shoot her first.

Marian feared for the younger girls in the classroom and begged Roberts to let them go.

Another child offered to be his second victim.

Midwife Rita Rhoads, who has been in close contact with many of the bereaved families, said: “The oldest child took the lead. She volunteered to be shot first. There was not an atmosphere of panic. They realised they were going to be shot. They were trying to save the younger girls.

“The Lord filled them with peace.”

The victims’ bravery was revealed as funerals were held for four of the five girls killed in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, onMonday.

The girls were executed moments after milk truck driver Roberts, 32, burst into their spelling class in a tiny wooden school.

Three were killed instantly. Two died in hospital and five were seriously wounded.

Yesterday, seven-year-old Lina Miller, her sister Mary Liz, eight, Marian Fisher, 13, and seven-year-old Naomi Rose Ebersol were laid to rest.

Among the mourners was the gunman’s wife Marie Roberts, who had been invited to attend by the girls’families.

A convoy of 34 horses and buggies carried friends and family to the private funerals.

The funeral procession – with the girls in horse-drawn hearses – then made its way to Georgetown Amish Cemetery, where the victims were buried.

A line of minibuses filled with mourners followed the procession.

The girls were dressed in white dresses, socks, capes and bonnets and laid in simple pine coffins.

Relatives, dressed all in black, viewed the children in open coffins at their homes, before a final viewing at the cemetery and a two-hour service.

Relatives were encouraged to touch the girls in the coffins.

The graves were covered with dirt by family members and marked by simple stones.

Ritasaid: “The sermons will be concentrated on the girls going to Heaven and their time there. That’s the Amish way.”

The Amish have offered their forgiveness and support to the family of father-of-three Roberts, who shot himself dead after massacring the children.

Shortly after the first procession rode by, Jaquie Hess, his sister-in-law, emerged from Roberts’s house.

She revealed that the gunman’s children have been told about their father’s death.

She added: “The children have been told that Daddy is in Heaven with the little girls that died. But they have not been told what happened.”

The funeral of the fifth victim, Anna Mae Stoltzfus, 12, will be held today.

Yesterday, it emerged that the attack may claim a sixth victim.

One of the hospitalised girls, kept alive by life-support systems, was to be brought home to die, an Amish community member said.

At the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the condition of a 12-year-old who was shot in an armand a leg had improved.

But two other girls, aged eight and 10, remained critical.

Before the massacre, Roberts left notes saying he was tormented by memories of molesting two young relatives 20 years ago.

But investigators spoke to the two women Roberts named, who would have been four or five at the time, and neither recalls being sexually assaulted by him.

Sam Stoltzfus, 63, an Amish woodworker who lives nearby, said faith would sustain the families of the girls who died.

He added: “We think it was God’s plan. “A funeral to us is a much more important thing than the day of birth because we believe in the hereafter.

“The children are better off than their survivors.”

10-06-2006 02:02 PM

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