Erie County District Attorney Frank C. Clark has announced that his investigation into the murder of abortion provider Dr. Barnett Slepian may go before a state grand jury as soon as next week.
Clark said that the recent discovery of a rifle believed to be the murder weapon played a large role in his decision. A high-powered assault rifle was found about 200 feet behind the Slepian house, where it had been buried about one foot underground. The weapon is currently being analyzed by an F.B.I. laboratory.
So far, authorities have not named a suspect in the case, but have been searching for 44-year-old anti-abortion protester James C. Kopp, who is wanted as a material witness in the case. Officials found a hair that has a “high likelihood” of matching Kopp’s as the site of the shooting and have testimony from a witness who saw Kopp’s car near the Slepian house about 10 days before the shooting.
Officials are also looking into the possibility that Kopp may be responsible for the Canadian “Remembrance Day” shootings of 1994, 1995, and 1997. The shootings were so named because they occurred around have taken place around the date of November 11, which is “Remembrance Day” in Canada and “Veteran’s Day” in the U.S . In each instance, the victim was a gynecologist or an obstetrician-gynecologist who performed abortions and was a shot through a window in his home. Videotapes show Kopp’s car crossing the Canadian border around the times that those shootings took place.
Kopp has traveled great distances to attend innumerable anti-abortion demonstrations over the years. His whereabouts are unknown.
A Federal grand jury trial will likely follow the state trial. Federal charges have not yet been named but may include abortion-related violence, use of a firearm in a violent attack and crossing state lines to commit a crime. If a particular organization is linked to the murder, the organization could be charged under the Racketeering and Influencing Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statutes.