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Amish Burying 5th Shooting Victim in Pa.

October 6, 2006

GEORGETOWN, Pa. (AP) _ Bearded men in black suits and hats and women in dresses and bonnets made their way to a tiny, wind-swept cemetery to mourn four young girls who were gunned down in their schoolhouse.

Mourners gathered Thursday inside the fading white rail fence among small, aging tombstones to bury four Amish girls killed by a gunman Monday in the one-room school in Nickel Mines.

A fifth victim’s funeral was set for Friday, and the community faced the possibility that at least one of five girls wounded in the shooting spree could die.

A sixth victim was reported in grave condition Thursday. County coroner G. Gary Kirchner said he had been contacted by a physician at Penn State Children’s Hospital in Hershey who said doctors expected to take one girl off life support.

Thursday was a day for the Amish to share their grief without the intrusion of outsiders.

State troopers blocked off all roads into the village and led horse-drawn buggies and black carriages holding the girls’ hand-sawn wooden coffins to the cemetery on the crest of a hill.

``I just think at this point mostly these families want to be left alone in their grief and we ought to respect that,″ said Dr. D. Holmes Morton, who runs a clinic that serves Amish children.

Funerals were held for 13-year-old Marian Fisher, 7-year-old Naomi Rose Ebersol and sisters Mary Liz Miller, 8, and Lena Miller, 7. The funeral for 12-year-old Anna Mae Stoltzfus was scheduled for Friday.

The girls, in white dresses made by their families, were laid to rest in graves dug by hand. Amish custom calls for simple wooden coffins, narrow at the head and feet and wider in the middle.

Amish funerals are conducted in German and focus on God, not on commemorating the dead. There is no singing, but ministers read hymns and passages from the Bible and an Amish prayer book.

Funeral processions passed the home of Charles Carl Roberts IV, the 32-year-old milk truck driver who took the girls hostage, tied them up and shot them before killing himself.

Benjamin Nieto, 57, watched the processions from a friend’s porch.

``They were just little people,″ he said of the victims. ``They never got a chance to do anything.″

The attack was so traumatic there is talk that the school house may soon be razed to erase the memories. But many Amish have embraced Roberts’ relatives, who may receive money from a fund established to help victims and their families.

Roberts’ wife, Marie, was invited to attend the funeral by the family of Marian Fisher; it was unclear whether she attended.

Media were blocked from the funerals and the burials, and airspace for 2 1/2 miles in all directions was closed to news helicopters.

Tragedies such as the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado have become moments of national mourning, in large part because of satellite and TV technology. But the Amish shun the modern world and both its ills and conveniences.

Donors from around the world are pledging money to help the families of the dead and wounded. Amounts ranging from $1 to $500,000 have been received and could help defray mounting medical bills.

At the behest of Amish leaders, a fund has also been set up for the killer’s widow and three children.

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Associated Press writer Mark Scolforo and photographer Carolyn Kaster contributed to this report.

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