In what’s being called a stunning example of “the imitation of Christ,” the Amish community devastated by the cold-blooded murder of five of its schoolgirls is raising money for the killer’s family.

Amish residents of rural Lancaster County, Pa., have started a charity fund to help not only the victims’ families – but also the mass-murderer’s widow and children, reports the New York Times today. The killer, Charles Carl Roberts IV, 32, committed suicide at the end of Monday’s attack, in which he shot 10 girls. Five of them, aged 7 to 13, died.

Dwight Lefever, a spokesman for the Roberts family, said an Amish neighbor comforted the killer’s family and extended forgiveness to them after the shooting, the Associated Press reports.

Explaining the Amish way, Gertrude Huntington, an expert on children in Amish society, told the AP that Roberts’ Amish neighbors would probably be very supportive of the killer and his wife, “because judgment is in God’s hands: ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged.'”

Monday morning, Roberts, heavily armed, stormed into the one-room West Nickel Mines Amish School, sent the boys and adults outside and barricaded the entrance with wood before tying up the 10 girls and shooting them, finally turning the gun on himself. In a sordid subplot, investigators say Roberts also brought lubricating jelly and plastic restraints with him, apparently planning to sexually assault the Amish girls. When the police showed up quickly, Roberts reportedly panicked and began executing the girls, then himself.

In suicide notes he left for his family, as well as a cell-phone call he made to his wife from inside the school, Roberts revealed that he was tormented both by memories of having sexually molested two young relatives 20 years ago – and by dreams of committing the heinous acts again.

However, investigators who have spoken to the two relatives, who would have been only 4 or 5 at the time Roberts specified, say no such abuse ever occurred.

“Both of them have no recollection of being sexually assaulted by Roberts,” state police Trooper Linette Quinn told the AP. “They were absolutely sure they had no contact with Roberts.”

Regardless, said State Police Commissioner Jeffrey B. Miller, “It’s very possible that he intended to victimize these children in many ways prior to executing them and killing himself,”

Reacting to the Amish outpouring of support for the killer’s family, columnist Rod Dreher writes: “Yesterday on NBC News, I saw an Amish midwife who had helped birth several of the girls murdered by the killer say that they were planning to take food over to his family’s house. She said – and I paraphrase closely – “This is possible if you have Christ in your heart.”

And Journalist Tom Shachtman, who wrote a book on Amish culture called “Rumspringa: To Be or Not to Be Amish,” told the New York Times: “This is imitation of Christ at its most naked. If anybody is going to turn the other cheek in our society, it’s going to be the Amish.”

He said, “I don’t want to denigrate anybody else who says they’re imitating Christ, but the Amish walk the walk as much as they talk the talk.”

Added Huntington, “They know their children are going to heaven. They know their children are innocent … and they know that they will join them in death. The hurt is very great,” she told the Associated Press. “But they don’t balance the hurt with hate.”

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