The man accused of opening fire Friday in a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood was charged with rape in North Charleston more than 20 years ago, according to police reports.
Robert Lewis Dear, a Charleston native, was arrested Dec. 31, 1992, on a charge of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. No disposition for the charge shows up on Dear’s official criminal record, generally an indication that a charge has been dismissed. The Post and Courier could not determine late Monday how the case was resolved.
Dear, 57, is accused of fatally shooting a university police officer who tried to stop the Planned Parenthood attack, an Iraq war veteran and a mother of two inside the clinic. The rampage sent nine other people to a hospital.
Colorado Springs police have declined to disclose any information on a motive for the attack, and a judge ordered the sealing of investigatory court documents at the request of prosecutors.
Police and court records show that Dear has had a troubled history in the Lowcountry, including with his ex-wives.
The rape accusation is the earliest known criminal record in South Carolina.
A woman who worked at Citadel Mall reported to North Charleston police that Dear had asked her out numerous times and she always refused, saying that she was married, according to a police report.
Dear allegedly continued to call her at work and home about two to three times per day telling her that he wanted to see her.
On Nov. 29, 1992, Dear showed up at the woman’s house while she attempted to take out the trash, according to the police report.
“The suspect then allegedly put a knife to the victim’s neck and forced her back inside her residence,” the report states. “The suspect then allegedly forced the victim down into the couch, struck her in the mouth with his fist, and then sexually assaulted her.”
The woman reported to police that the sexual assault continued on the floor near a coffee table before Dear dragged her to a bedroom and continued the assault on a bed.
After Dear left her house, the woman called a friend and was taken to a hospital.
Dear’s second wife, Barbara Mescher, referred to the rape allegation in a divorce affidavit but did not mention the outcome of the case.
Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson could not immediately be reached for comment. She was not in office at the time Dear was charged.
Dear has a history of arrests in South Carolina out of Colleton and Beaufort counties, records show. A background search completed by The Post and Courier found that Dear was arrested in 2003 on a cruelty to animals charge but was found not guilty in 2004. He was charged under the state’s Peeping Tom law in 2002 but that charge, too, was later dismissed, according to a background search.
In 1997, Dear’s then-wife reported that her husband assaulted her, according to incident reports released Saturday by the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office. She declined at the time to file charges against Dear.
Beaufort County sheriff’s deputies charged Dear with operating an uninsured motor vehicle in 2004 and he was later convicted and ordered to pay a fine, State Law Enforcement Division records show.
Ex-wife ‘lived in fear’
Dear, described as a loner by neighbors in Colorado and North Carolina, has been married at least three times and has four children.
His second wife, Mescher, described Dear in divorce papers filed in 1993 as a controlling, abusive, womanizing man who liked to gamble but was tight with his cash when it came to supporting his family. She stated that he threw her around the room by her hair during one argument and beat her head on the floor. She also said in a sworn affidavit that Dear “erupts into fury in a matter of seconds,” and she “lived in fear and dread of his emotional and physical abuse.”
“He claims to be a Christian and is extremely evangelistic, but does not follow the Bible in his actions,” Mescher stated in the affidavit. “He says that as long as he believes he will be saved, he can do whatever he pleases. He is obsessed with the world coming to an end.”
She did not return multiple requests over the weekend and Monday for comment.
The picture stands in contrast to how his third wife, Pamela Ross, described Dear in an interview with The New York Times on Saturday. She stated that in the 16 years or so they were together Dear was not a perfect man, but he was a good man. He was good to the son they had together, whom they raised in Walterboro with her son from a previous relationship, she told the Times.
The Times also reported that Ross said that Dear was an independent art dealer, that he had a degree in public administration and that he was born in Charleston and grew up in Louisville, Ky., but had strong ties to South Carolina. Dear’s father, Robert Lewis Dear Sr., graduated from The Citadel, according to his 2004 obituary.
Ross previously declined to be interviewed by The Post and Courier and did not return messages for comment Monday. Numerous family members, including Dear’s mother who lives in Mount Pleasant, also have not responded to requests for comment.
History of abuse
Charleston County Family Court records show that Dear in 1985 filed for divorce from his first wife, Kimberly Dear, whom he married in Kentucky in 1979. They had one son at the time, and he willingly granted her full custody in the uncontested divorce, court papers show.
She could not be reached for comment.
Mescher stated in her affidavit that Dear was still married to his wife when they began dating in Charleston but that he lied and claimed the divorce had already gone through. Mescher stated that Dear’s first wife later tried to win him back and he got Kimberly pregnant with a second son on one of their rendezvous. She also alleged in the affidavit that Dear had a history of abusing his first wife, as well.
Mescher stated that Dear had worked in fast-food restaurants before landing a good-paying job at Santee Cooper in the mid-1980s. He chafed at being told what to do, however, and repeatedly got in trouble, prompting him to quit the utility to become an independent art dealer selling prints wholesale to galleries, the affidavit stated. She stated that he ended up in debt, and paperwork he submitted in the divorce claimed he was in the red to the tune of about $25,000.
Mescher had a son with Dear before she stated she caught him cheating with Ross, the woman who would become his third wife, her affidavit stated. Ross and Dear also had a son together, court records show.