Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 14, 2005
Police killer raised Catholic
After Roszko left church, he grew hostile to those around him
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Mass murderer James Roszko attended the Catholic church as a child, but turned against religion when his mother left the family when he was 12.
Despite swirling speculation and mounting accusations, no one has determined exactly what compelled 46-year-old James Roszko to gun down four RCMP officers March 3 on his farm near Rochfort Bridge about 110 km northwest of Edmonton.
He had a lengthy criminal record and a well-known hatred for authority. But little of what he was convicted of could have forewarned the young men of the brutal assault Roszko would execute to end their lives.
His father, Bill Roszko, 80, recalls seeing warning signs when Roszko began pulling away from the family's Christian life as a youth.
Father prayed for Roszko
The retired farmer used to pray that God would protect the youngest of his four sons because he was continually pushed away when he tried to reach out to the troubled teen after his mother left.
"I am his father, but he was not my son," Bill said wearily, during a recent telephone interview with the WCR.
Using a high-powered weapon, Roszko killed Mayerthorpe detachment Consts. Peter Schiemann, 25, Lionide (Leo) Johnston, 34, and Brock Myrol, 29, and Whitecourt detachment Const. Anthony Gordon, 28, before turning the gun on himself.
The officers were investigating the property for stolen auto parts when they discovered a small marijuana-grow operation in a large quonset. They were inside the metal structure when Roszko began firing.
'You're no preacher!'
Roszko was baptized Ukrainian Catholic at St. John the Baptist Parish near Rochfort Bridge. The family generally attended Divine Liturgy and services to celebrate special Catholic occasions. Bill said he has attended the church his entire life.
Getting his children to attend Mass, including three daughters, eventually became too difficult, he said.
"I used to tell Jim to get ready, but he fired back at me I didn't need to preach to him because I was no preacher. I felt like I was between the devil and the deep blue sea."
Roszko was 12 years old when his mother left. Bill said it was a pivotal point in his life. When he was 17, his mother suffered a fierce physical attack by her estranged male partner that Bill thinks pushed his son "over the edge."
"Jimmy wanted to kill him."
It was Roszko who took his mother to the hospital.
"I used to pray for him and I tried to show good examples for the kids," Bill said. "But I never forced them to pray or go to church. If Jim didn't want to go, I'd just leave him alone."
During his homily March 6, Father Andrew Bogdanowicz, pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Mayerthorpe, asked the congregation to remember the lives of the officers. Bogdanowicz did not know the Roszkos, but he asked the gathering to pray for the family, and for Jim.
"I know it is difficult for some people, but as Christians we must pray for the men who were shot and for the person who caused the tragedy," Bogdanowicz said.
"During my homily, I asked that we respect life and respect what happens when we exclude God from our daily lives. The consequence of this shows how we need to come back to God."
A mechanical contractor in Whitecourt, George Roszko, 50, had not seen his brother for 15 years, but he suspected he did not attend church very often.
"Jim was trouble. Who knows what was rolling around inside his head. Whatever it was, it has nothing to do with the rest of us."
Bill had not spoken to his son, whom he called "a wicked devil," for nine years. He described the massacre as "terribly evil."
"The devil from everlasting hell could not have done what Jim did the way he shot the police," Bill said, unaware his son was cultivating marijuana.
"There are a lot of troubles in our world and people need to pray. It has happened for ages," he said. "People who go astray from God end up in trouble.
They end up with punishment. I feel very sorry for the families of the policemen. They were trying to stop a situation of bad behaviour, and they got shot."
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