Missouri House Republicans are meeting as a caucus next month to determine how to handle accusations that a new Kansas City-area legislator sexually and physically abused his children decades ago.
On Sunday, three of Republican Rick Roeber’s children sent a letter to House Speaker-elect Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold, pleading with him to stop their father from taking office.
“To think this man would have a say over laws that impact thousands of children is just too much,” they wrote. “A man like this does not deserve the high honor of serving in our government.”
The allegations that Roeber made sexual advances toward his adopted daughter when she was 9 years old and physically abused his son came to light in September after the Kansas City Star editorial board interviewed Roeber’s ex-wife Michelle Keller and their three children — Anastasia Roeber, Samson Roeber and Gabrielle Galeano.
Vescovo and fellow Republican leaders John Weimann, the speaker pro tem, and Dean Plocher, the incoming majority leader, responded Tuesday in a statement to the news media.
“The adult children of (Roeber) have made very troubling allegations regarding abuse that occurred when they were young,” the statement says. “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.”
They added that their membership, which holds more than two-thirds of the seats in the chamber, would discuss the issue in a meeting Dec. 14.
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Roeber, for his part, has denied any wrongdoing in multiple statements to the Kansas City Star’s editorial board.
“Nearly 11,000 people who voted for me understand these accusations against me are political and without substantiation,” he wrote following his victory. “Once the Secretary of State certifies my election, I will be seated and neither party can block me from representing District 34.”
However, the state constitution says each house of the legislature “shall be the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members.”
Republicans themselves could severely limit his role if he joins the House in January by refusing to admit him to their caucus, denying him spots on committees and blocking his bills from advancing.
The full House could also expel him from the chamber entirely with a two-thirds vote.
Democrats have made their preference clear.
“We are encouraged incoming majority leadership is 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,” House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said.
Any proceedings would almost certainly include a review of the allegations against Roeber.
According to the Star, Roeber’s adopted daughter, Anastasia has said he made “improper sexual advances” toward her in 1990.
Samson Roeber said he was physically abused by his father, and a third sibling, Gabrielle Galeano, said she knew about the abuse.
In 2001, the Jackson County office of the Division of Family Services also found probable cause to believe there was “sexual mistreatment” of a fourth sibling, who was not included in the Star’s editorial and did not sign the letter to House leadership.
That decision was later overturned by Missouri’s Child Abuse and Neglect Review Board, but the rationale was not made public.
Roeber said in a statement to the Star that his children are suffering from “Parental Alienation Syndrome.”
“Our lawyer’s deposition revealed the lies of my children and their mother,” he wrote.
But Anastasia Roeber, Samson Roeber and Gabrielle Galeano said in fact, their father was “never held accountable nor exonerated, as he says, for the physical abuse we endured or the sexual abuse of Anastasia.”
Katie Kull covers local government for the News-Leader. Got a story to tell? Give her a call at 417-408-1025 or email her at email@example.com. You can also support local journalism at News-Leader.com/subscribe.