Content Warning: This story continues graphic sexual and physical abuse allegations.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The House Ethics Committee formally recommended Rep. Rick Roeber be expelled from the House after finding that he physically, sexually, and mentally abused his children when they were as young as 5 years old.
The committee said it found records and testimony confirming that one child was sexually abused at 5 years old and another was sexually abused at 9. The committee said it reviewed more than 200 pages of documentation of alleged abuse and sworn testimony from five witnesses, and the sexual abuse occurred in 1990.
The sexual abuse detailed to the committee constitutes a Class A felony, according to the report.
“I was sexually abused by him. I was physically abused by him. I was groomed by him from a very young age …. He treated me more like a [companion] … when we would ride in the car, he’d have his hand on my upper thigh just kind of rubbing it,” one of Roeber’s children told the Ethics Committee.
One person said Roeber made this person touch his genitals when they were 9 years old.
The committee summarized the abuse reported to it as: “The conduct committed by [Roeber] as disclosed by Child 1 would constitute ‘sexual contact’ under state law. The conduct committed by [Roeber] as disclosed by Child 2 would constitute ‘deviate sexual intercourse’ under state law. [Roeber] attempted to induce both children to repeat the actions at later dates, however, both children refused.”
“The State of Missouri has failed these children for over 20 years. Although this Committee cannot change the past, this Committee can provide a clear record of Respondent’s abusive conduct,” the report said.
The Ethics Committee said Roeber called the allegations “a setup” and was “combative, defensive, defiant, and at times angry in his testimony.” He said his children were Democrats. The committee did not find his testimony to be credible.
The committee unanimously recommended expulsion and other sanctions by the House. It also noted in its report that state statute allows “a sexual offense committed against a minor may be prosecuted ‘at any time.’”
According to its report, Roeber’s ex-wife testified that her first child, who was adopted by Roeber, reported Roeber had abused him or her. Police were called and interviewed the family, but no criminal charges were filed. Another child disclosed the sexual abuse to the ex-wife in later years as well as to a therapist. The Division of Family Services (DFS) and local law enforcement investigated the allegations and found probable cause that the abuse occurred, but no criminal charges were filed, according to the Ethics Committee report.
The former wife and a child also reported Roeber drowned multiple puppies and beat one of his children who has a permanent scar from being struck by a nail in a board. The committee said it found their testimony to be credible.
Another child told the committee they endured physical abuse from Roeber, alleging he would “hold them against the wall by their necks and lift upwards until they could not breathe,” according to the report.
“After [Roeber] was able to get his alcoholism under control, the abuse did not let up. [Roeber] simply learned not to leave marks,” that individual told the committee.
Among the records it reviewed, the committee report said it saw a document of probable cause that one child had been sexually abused by Roeber, but it included a notation by a state employee that said, “The children will be protected. No file will be opened.”
Despite the option to do so, Roeber did not produce any witnesses on his behalf to the committee, according to the report.
“The House Ethics Committee report finds credible the allegations that Rick Roeber physically and sexually abused his children when they were young, while finding his denials not credible,” House Minority Leader Crystal Quade said. “As always, we support the committee’s findings and its recommendation that Roeber is unfit to serve in the House and should face expulsion.”
Last week, the House rejected Roeber’s resignation so the committee could continue with its report. It had been investigating Roeber, a freshman Republican, who faced allegations of sexual and physical abuse from his now-adult children. His final day was set to be April 16.
Roeber had been barred from sitting on the House Republican Caucus before the 2021 legislative session began. He narrowly won election to his late wife’s seat in November and denied the allegations against him. He has said he was an alcoholic but has not consumed alcohol since 1992.
Roeber sent a letter of resignation to House leadership, saying he planned to move out of state with his fiancée to be closer to other family members.
At the time, House Speaker Rob Vescovo and Ethics Chairman Travis Fitzwater — both Republicans — said they were “appalled by the disturbing details uncovered by the committee and ashamed of the way the system failed to protect them from harm.”
“Our caucus and our institution have a zero-tolerance policy for anyone who would endanger the well-being of a child, and it’s clear that Rick 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,” Fitzwater and Vescovo said. “To that end, we have communicated with the appropriate law enforcement officials to share our concerns about the risk he may pose to other children.”
“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. 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.”
According to the Ethics report, Vescovo and Fitzwater alerted the Jackson County prosecutor, noting concern for a step-grandchild Roeber would regularly see. The committee initially unanimously voted to recommend expulsion, and Roeber was given until April 12 to accept or reject the recommendation. He objected and requested a formal hearing, the report said, but while preparations were underway for the formal hearing, Roeber submitted his resignation.
The report also recommended $1,574.09 be paid back for the costs of conducting the investigation. The last time a House member was expelled was in 1865.
Roeber did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is the editor of The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in early 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City.
Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S., including the 2016 presidential election, and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa and the Middle East.
She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She is also an alumna of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.
Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.