Accusations against a Republican elected to the legislature last week that he physically and sexually abused his children must be investigated to determine whether he will be allowed to serve in office, GOP House leaders said in a joint statement released on Tuesday.
On Monday, the adult children of Rick Roeber wrote a letter to House leaders asking that they block him from representing the district made up of parts of Lee’s Summit and surrounding areas in Jackson County. His adopted daughter says he made improper sexual advances toward her in 1990, when she was 9 years old, while two of his other children say he was also physically abusive.
Incoming House Speaker Rob Vescovo, incoming Majority Leader Dean Plocher and Speaker Pro Tem John Wiemann said in their joint statement that they have a “zero tolerance policy for anyone who would endanger or abuse a child.”
“The adult children of newly-elected state Rep. Rick Roeber have made very troubling allegations regarding abuse that occurred when they were young,” the statement said. “We take these accusations very seriously and strongly believe they must be thoroughly investigated to ensure justice is served for both the alleged victims and the accused.”
House leaders noted that Roeber is currently not part of the House Republican Caucus, which will meet Dec. 14 to “discuss this issue and the options we have as a legislative body to address it.”
The House can expel a member with a two thirds vote. Short of that, House leadership could also exile him from the party by refusing to seat him on any committees or allow bills he files to progress through the legislative process.
Roeber has vehemently denied any wrongdoing. He told The Kansas City Star, which first reported the accusations of abuse against him, that “neither party can block me from representing District 34.”
House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said Democrats are encouraged that their GOP colleagues are “taking seriously the highly credible allegations of physical and sexual abuse made against Rick Roeber by his own adult children and are hopeful appropriate action will be taken to prevent him from taking office as a state representative.”
However, she said, the allegations aren’t new, and “we regret that his children have had to relive their abuse for the last several months. This could have been avoided if Republican leadership had strongly denounced Roeber before the election instead of waiting until after.”
In late September The Kansas City Star reported on the accusations of sexual abuse against Roeber by his adopted daughter, Anastasia.
Her sibling, Samson, told The Star he was physically abused by Roeber as a child. The third sibling, Galeano, said she was aware of the abuse against both Anastasia and Samson.
Their mother, Michelle Keller, who was once married to Roeber, told The Star — and previously testified under oath — that Anastasia told her she was molested by him in 1993.
Roeber was also accused of sexual abuse by a fourth sibling, who was not named by The Star, in a case that was investigated by the Jackson County office of the Division of Family Services in 2001.
That investigation found probable cause that “sexual maltreatment” of the child had occurred, The Star reported, but two years later the Missouri’s Child Abuse and Neglect Review Board overturned the finding.
Missouri law says records of the board’s deliberations are confidential, so the basis for the decision is not clear.
In their letter to Vescovo on Monday, the three children implored the Republican leader to prevent Roeber from serving as a state representative.
“As the highest office holder in the Missouri House, we are begging you to not allow this to happen,” the letter said. “You have the power to uphold the honor of our government in a time that trust and hope is waning. Please do what is right, not just for us, but for all those in Missouri who have suffered, and all the children you have sworn to protect.”
Reached via email Monday evening, Roeber asked for a copy of the letter before commenting. He did not immediately respond to a follow-up inquiry.
The letter says the children never expected to have to share their stories publicly. But after they learned Roeber was running for office, they felt compelled go public.
“Can we tell our story? Will they believe us? Is it worth it?” the letter says. “Reliving the pain all over again every time you see something as small as a yard sign has been overwhelming. But through all that, we absolutely knew we had to say something. That is one of the many battles of being a survivor — what is our responsibility to everyone else in protecting them? Ultimately, we decided to speak up.”
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