More than a month before the shooting of a high-profile abortion doctor, the FBI received an anonymous letter warning that the man now charged in the case "would do physical harm" to Dr. George Tiller or any other abortion provider, the agency said.
The letter writer, who later revealed himself to the FBI, and his wife are together in a bitter custody battle over a girl fathered by Scott Roeder, the man accused in Tiller's May 31 death. The April 3 letter contained no specific or credible threat, according to the FBI.
Mark Archer, of Tunkhannock, Pa., acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press this week that he sent the letter in an effort to get the FBI to put Roeder on its no-fly list as a "domestic terrorist" so Roeder could not visit his 7-year-old daughter.
"I did have an ulterior motive," Archer said.
Roeder is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated assault in the shooting at Tiller's church. He has pleaded not guilty, but confessed to reporters Monday that he shot Tiller, saying it was necessary to protect the unborn.
Prosecutors on Thursday asked a judge to bar the so-called necessity defense from Roeder's trial, scheduled for January. Roeder's public defender has said he has no plans to present such a defense.
No 'direct' threat
FBI spokeswoman Bridget Patton said she did not believe there was surveillance of Roeder at the time of the shooting because of the letter, and said she did not know if Tiller was told about it.
"We get intelligence in every day — it is looked at, it is screened, it is vetted, it is followed up on," Patton said. "This is anonymous information that came in. The information is still taken in as intelligence — but again there was not a direct, specific, credible threat there."
Roeder confirmed his lawyers had shown him a copy of the anonymous letter while going over case material, and said he instantly recognized who likely sent it.
"It goes to show a little bit of his motive and the fact he wants to make it harder on me," Roeder said in a phone call from jail Thursday.
Attorney Lee Thompson, who represents the Tiller family, said Friday he would reserve comment on the letter until he has a chance to visit with his client and the district attorney's office.
In a phone interview from Pennsylvania, Archer said he basically did a "psychological profile" of Roeder.
Archer said he tied together Roeder's 1996 arrest for having explosives in his car and a September 2008 conversation Roeder had with Susan Archer during a custody visit, during which he told her he had no qualms about blowing up an abortion clinic. He also considered blog postings Roeder reportedly wrote advocating protests at Tiller's church.
Someone posting to the Web site of anti-abortion group Operation Rescue in May 2007 used the name "Scott Roeder" in response to a scheduled vigil to "pray for an end to George R. Tiller's late-term abortion business."
"Bless everyone for attending and praying in May to bring justice to Tiller and the closing of his death camp," the posting read. "Sometime soon, would it be feasible to organize as many people as possible to attend Tillers church (inside, not just outside) to have much more of a presence and possibly ask questions of the Pastor, Deacons, Elders and members while there? Doesn't seem like it would hurt anything but bring more attention to Tiller."
Archer said his letter included links to that posting.
Archer eventually acknowledged to the FBI that he wrote the letter — when agents came to Pennsylvania after the shooting to investigate Roeder's frequent trips there, he said.
"They wanted to make sure I wasn't in cahoots with Scott on killing Dr. Tiller," said Archer, who declined to disclose his occupation. "I just did a psychological profile on Scott and basically guessed he would do bodily harm to Tiller."
Roeder fathered the child while living with the girl's mother in 2001, but the girl was born after Susan and Mark Archer got married, Archer said. Roeder has court-supervised visitation rights, but the court prohibited him from telling the girl he is her father, Archer said.