Department of Justice Opens Federal Probe Into Kansas Abortion Doctor's Murder

The Justice Department launched a federal probe Friday into whether the killing of a Kansas abortion doctor was part of a larger plot involving multiple accomplices.

The investigation will consist of a thorough review of evidence linked to the murder of Dr. George Tiller and an assessment of any possible violations of federal statutes, the DOJ said in a press release issued Friday.

The department's civil rights division will probe possible federal crimes in connection with Tiller's slaying at his church last Sunday in Wichita.

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Specifically, government lawyers will seek to determine if the killing violated a federal law passed in 1994 creating criminal penalties for violent or damaging conduct toward abortion providers and their patients. That law is known as the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.

"The Department of Justice will work tirelessly to determine the full involvement of any and all actors in this horrible crime," said Loretta King, head of the department's civil rights division.

Anyone who played a role in the killing, she said, will be prosecuted "to the full extent of federal law."

Police have charged Scott Roeder, 51, with Tiller's death. After the killing, U.S. Marshals were sent to provide security to some abortion providers and clinics.

Tiller was a late-term abortion provider and had been the target of attempts on his life in the past.

Tiller's funeral is scheduled for Saturday, and U.S. Marshals spokesman Jeff Carter said federal deputies "are committed to ensuring every individual wishing to mourn Doctor Tiller's passing can do so in a safe and secure environment."

Roeder is charged with first-degree murder and is being held on $5 million bond at Sedgwick County Jail.

He called The Associated Press from the jail Thursday.

"I haven't been convicted of anything, and I am being treated as a criminal," Roeder said.

If convicted of the state murder charge, Roeder would face a mandatory life sentence and would not be eligible for parole for at least 25 years.

His preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 16, although it will likely be continued.

Tiller and his Wichita clinic have been a regular target of anti-abortion protests, including the 45-day "Summer of Mercy" event staged by Operation Rescue in 1991. His clinic was damaged by a pipe bomb in 1986, and a protester shot at him in 1993, wounding his arms.

Hundreds of people are expected at his funeral Saturday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.