Republican accused of abuse by his children resigning from Missouri House

Rick Roeber’s resignation came shortly after news broke that lawmakers investigating him had contacted the Jackson County prosecutor

By: - April 13, 2021 1:15 pm

The Missouri House chamber (photo courtesy of Tim Bommel/Missouri House Communications).

Rep. Rick Roeber, a Lee’s Summit Republican facing accusations by his adult children that he physically and sexually abused them when they were young, is resigning from the Missouri House.

In a letter to other lawmakers Tuesday afternoon, Roeber said his final day as a state legislator will be Friday.

Rick Roeber

He makes no mention of the accusations against him or the House Ethics Committee investigation that has been ongoing for months. Instead, he says he is stepping down because, “it has become necessary for me and my soon-to-be wife to relocate out-of-state to be closer to our extended families.”

Roeber’s announcement came shortly after The Independent reported on a letter House Speaker Rob Vescovo wrote to Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Backer stating that over the course of the House Ethics Committee investigation, “we have learned information that needs to be forwarded to the proper authorities in your jurisdiction.”

Roeber has regular weekend visits with a minor child, the letter states, and “given the severity of the allegations raised by Rep. Roeber’s children, we are concerned for the safety of this minor child.”

Baker responds later that day in an email to Vescovo, saying she contacted the chief of police in Lee’s Summit and “will work with him to devise a plan.” She also requested transcripts from the House investigation so her office could review them “for potential criminal activity.”

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Vescovo said Roeber’s “heinous actions make him not only unfit for office, but should also make him the subject of a thorough investigation by law enforcement.”

Vescovo later added: “For far too long his children were ignored and the abuses they suffered were swept under the rug. We are appalled by the disturbing details uncovered by the committee and ashamed of the way the system failed to protect them from harm.”

Late last year, The Kansas City Star reported that Roeber’s adopted daughter, Anastasia, said he made improper sexual advances toward her in 1990, when she was 9 years old.

Her sibling, Samson Roeber, said he was physically abused by Roeber as a child, and a third sibling, Gabrielle 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 August 2019, Roeber announced he was running for the House seat previously held by his second wife, Rebecca. She had died a few weeks before his announcement.

The abuse allegations, which Roeber has adamantly denied, surfaced more than a year later and just weeks before Election Day. The Missouri Fraternal Order of Police rescinded its endorsement of Roeber, and a bipartisan group of legislators called for him to withdraw from the race.

Roeber rebuffed the calls for him to abandon his campaign, and he defeated his Democratic opponent by 300 votes. 

But before Roeber could be sworn into office, House leaders announced he would not be allowed to join the House GOP caucus — and an ethics committee investigation was launched. 

In the letter announcing his resignation, Roeber says he never intended to serve more than one term in office, and that he has already “done what I set out to do in the Missouri Legislature in 2021.”

Vescovo said Tuesday that the ethics committee will release the full report on its investigation into Roeber next week, and continue communicating with law enforcement.

“With his resignation today, we take an important step to protect the integrity of the House as an institution, but it’s far more important that we do all we can to seek justice for his children and to ensure he never again causes harm to another child,” Vescovo said. “His resignation allows him to walk away from his duties as a representative, but we cannot allow him to once again walk away from the children he victimized.”

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Jason Hancock
Jason Hancock

Jason Hancock has spent two decades covering politics and policy for news organizations across the Midwest, with most of that time focused on the Missouri statehouse as a reporter for The Kansas City Star. A three-time National Headliner Award winner, he helped launch The Missouri Independent in October 2020.