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The latest news from every corner of the state, including policy emerging from Missouri's capitol.

Missouri Legislature Expels Rep. Rick Roeber Over Child Abuse Allegations

 Rep. Rick Roeber, R-Lee's Summit
Missouri Independent
Rep. Rick Roeber, R-Lee's Summit

Months after child abuse allegations first surfaced against state Rep. Rick Roeber — then a candidate for the Lee’s Summit district — the Missouri House of Representatives voted Wednesday to expel the Republican.

While no lawmakers voted against expulsion, Rep. Bruce DeGroot, R-Ellisville, voted “present.”

In a somber discussion on the House floor, lawmakers said they found the allegations credible and criticized prosecutors for not bringing charges against Roeber when the abuse was reported decades ago.

“We believe the state has failed Rick Roeber’s family — and horribly ” said Rep. Travis Fitzwater, the ethics committee chair. “The abuses this family endured are to this day devastating.”

A House ethics committee investigated the allegations and recommended expulsion in its report released Monday. The 10-member body found “clear and convincing” evidence that Roeber physically abused his children and sexually abused two of them. Lawmakers interviewed three of Roeber’s children, who are now adults, and spoke with Roeber’s ex-wife. In addition to the abuse allegations, two witnesses alleged that Roeber drowned several puppies.

The committee also reviewed over 200 pages of documents and questioned Roeber, who has denied the allegations. He said they were made as a “political hit.” Roeber did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

House Speaker Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold, criticized Roeber’s defense, noting that the children were 9 and 5 at the time of the alleged sexual abuse.

“This is not a political hit piece,” Vescovo said. “Nor is it a viable defense. This is not a witch hunt.”

The abuse was first reported to authorities in 1993. After another child reporting being sexually abused, authorities were notified again in 2001. No criminal charges have been filed.

“The State of Missouri has failed these children for over 20 years,” the ethics report concludes. “Although this Committee cannot change the past, this Committee can provide a clear record of Respondent's abusive conduct.”

Rep. Richard Brown, D-Kansas City, said the committee found Roeber’s testimony untrustworthy. The report states that Roeber was combative and defiant when he spoke with committee members.

“The report is disturbing,” Brown said. “Rep. Roeber is not fit to serve in this body.”

Earlier this month the committee contacted the Jackson County prosecutor’s office following concerns about a minor child who had regular contact with Roeber. A spokesman for the prosecutor said the office is currently reviewing documents it requested from the ethics committee. A spokesman for the Lee's Summit Police Department said it has no active investigation of Roeber.

The abuse allegations were first reported by the Kansas City Star’s editorial board in late September when Roeber was running for the seat held by his late wife, Rebecca Roeber. She died in 2019. While several Missouri lawmakers called on Roeber to withdraw his candidacy, Republican Party leaders didn’t sign on to the letter.

Roeber was removed from the Republican caucus in December. He attempted to step down from his seat last week, but the House voted to reject his resignation so the ethics committee could complete its report.

Follow Aviva on Twitter: @avivaokeson

Copyright 2021 St. Louis Public Radio

When Aviva first got into radio reporting, she didn’t expect to ride on the back of a Harley. But she’ll do just about anything to get good nat sounds. Aviva has profiled a biker who is still riding after losing his right arm and leg in a crash more than a decade ago, talked to prisoners about delivering end-of-life care in the prison’s hospice care unit and crisscrossed Mid-Missouri interviewing caregivers about life caring for someone with autism. Her investigation into Missouri’s elder abuse hotline led to an investigation by the state’s attorney general. As KCUR’s Missouri government and state politics reporter, Aviva focuses on turning complicated policy and political jargon into driveway moments.
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