The Charleston native accused of opening fire inside a Colorado Planned Parenthood had a troubled history with his ex-wife and former neighbors in the Lowcountry.
Robert Lewis Dear’s ex-wife in Goose Creek, Pamela Ross, hasn’t seen Dear in years following a divorce around 2000.
“I know everyone has a lot of questions,” Ross told The Post and Courier. “We all do. ... We’re living it just as everyone else is.”
She declined to comment further about the situation.
The Colorado Springs Police Department identified Dear, 57, as the suspected gunman in the shooting that killed three, including a police officer, and wounded nine others.
Dear lived in a mountain cabin in North Carolina prior to a move last year to Colorado, authorities have said. The man has additional ties in South Carolina going back several years.
Neighbors from both South and North Carolina told The Associated Press that Dear was a recluse who stashed food in the woods, avoided eye contact, warned neighbors about government spying and passed out anti-Obama pamphlets.
Dear’s mother did not appear to be at her Mount Pleasant home Saturday and did not return multiple calls seeking comment. Dear’s son in Moncks Corner told a reporter that he’d had a rough couple of days, but declined to comment further about his father’s history or the accusations against him.
Another son in Goose Creek did not respond to multiple calls from The Post and Courier, and he did not appear to be home Saturday. A card left at the home by an FBI agent indicated that investigators, too, attempted to contact him.
Pamela Ross told the New York Times on Saturday 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.
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, Kentucky, but had strong ties to South Carolina. She also told the Times that Dear’s father graduated from The Citadel. Robert Lewis Dear Sr., the father, died in 2004.
Robert Dear the son was raised in the Baptist church, Ross said. He was religious but not a regular churchgoer and not one to harp on his faith.
“He believed wholeheartedly in the Bible. That’s what he always said, he read it cover to cover to cover,” she told the Times. But he wasn’t fixated on it. He was generally conservative but not obsessed with politics. He kept guns for protection and hunting. He believed that abortion was wrong, but it was not something he spoke about compulsively. “It was never really a topic of discussion,” Ross told the Times.
The AP reported that a law enforcement official Saturday quoted Dear as saying, “no more baby parts” after his arrest.
The official could not elaborate on the comment by the suspect. The official spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation.
Planned Parenthood told the AP late Saturday that witnesses said the gunman was motivated by his opposition to abortion. Police, however, have not disclosed a motive for Friday’s attack
When questioned about the extent of their Lowcountry investigation, Assistant Special Agent in Charge James Brown, of the agency’s Columbia office, said the FBI is not releasing information about the case.
“We are assisting our Denver Field Office and local law enforcement partners,” Brown said in an email before deferring further comment to the Colorado Springs Police Department.
Dear has a history of arrests 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 contacted Colleton County sheriff’s deputies and reported that her husband assaulted her, according to incident reports released Saturday by the Sheriff’s Office. The woman told deputies that Dear took her keys from her and locked her out of their home, a report stated.
She tried to enter the home through a window, according to the report, but Dear pushed her back out, causing bruises to her body. The woman chose not to file charges against Dear at that time, the report stated.
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.
Another report released by sheriff’s deputies detailed an ongoing dispute between Dear and a neighbor on Winding Creek Road outside of Walterboro. The neighbor contacted deputies in 2004 after Dear reportedly threatened to “do bodily harm” to the man, according to an incident report. The threat came after Dear accused the neighbor of knocking his motorcycle to the ground, the report stated.
That same neighbor previously contacted sheriff’s deputies in 2002 to report that his dog had been shot with a pellet gun. When questioned by investigators, Dear denied shooting the dog, according to a report. Dear added, however, that the dog’s owner “was lucky that it was only a pellet that hit the dog and not a bigger round,” an incident report stated.
A second neighbor told deputies she was in fear for her safety in 2002 after noticing Dear “leering” at her from the bushes by her home. The woman told investigators that Dear watched her on a regular basis for about a year, according to an incident report.
Dear reported living in North Carolina in 2007. He shared the detail with Colleton County sheriff’s deputies when he reported that his pickup truck had been stolen from the Winding Creek Road property he, by then, began renting to tenants, an incident report stated.
A former neighbor, John Hood, told The AP on Saturday that Dear lived in a doublewide mobile home and seemed to be a loner and very strange but not dangerous.
Hood said that Dear rarely talked to them, and when he did, he tended to offer unsolicited advice such as recommending that Hood put a metal roof on his house so the U.S. government couldn’t spy on him.
“He was really strange and out there, but I never thought he would do any harm,” he said.
Neighbors in Black Mountain, North Carolina, where Dear lived in a cabin with no electricity or running water, reported that he kept mostly to himself. When he did talk, it was a rambling combination of a number of topics that didn’t make sense, according to The AP.
Dear was taken into custody Friday after a standoff and shootout. Authorities say they haven’t determined a motive or whether the suspect had any connection to Planned Parenthood.