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Funeral Monday for slain New York doctor

Police report no breakthroughs in investigation

In this story:

AMHERST, New York (CNN) -- A private funeral service will be held Monday for Dr. Barnett Slepian, whose murder by a sniper Friday night may have been stemmed from the ferocious debate over abortion rights.

Police reported no breakthroughs Sunday in their investigation into the slaying of Slepian, 52, an obstetrician-gynecologist who performed abortions at his clinic in Buffalo.

CNN's Susan Candiotti reports on the continuing investigation of the shooting death of a doctor in New York
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While police have not given a motive for the shooting, Attorney General Janet Reno has announced that federal law enforcement officials planned to "actively" investigate the possibility that Slepian was murdered because he performed abortions. He had been the target of anti-abortion protesters since the 1980s.

Outside Slepian's office Sunday, supporters of abortion rights and former patients gathered, some posting photos of the doctor with babies he has delivered.

Similarities to earlier sniper attacks

A task force continues to gather evidence at the murder scene  

A joint Canadian-American task force continued to gather evidence at the murder scene as part of its investigation into a series of sniper attacks on abortion providers in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and New York that may be linked to Slepian's death.

Canadian authorities tell CNN that there appear to be similarities between his murder and four other attacks in the last four years, none of which was fatal. The task force expects to make a determination this week as to whether the attacks are linked.

The earlier shootings, which began in November 1994, all happened in early fall, within weeks of November 11, Veteran's Day. Authorities aren't yet sure what significance that date might have. The doctors were attacked at their homes, and in three of the four cases, a sniper fired through a window.

Slepian died after being struck by a bullet fired through his kitchen window.

Abortion foe calls shooter 'a hero'

Web Site
On Saturday, Planned Parenthood President Gloria Feldt held up a printout of a Web site which lists the names of doctors targeted by some anti-abortion groups  

While Slepian's murder has been denounced by President Clinton, New York Gov. George Pataki, U.S. Sen. Alfonse D'Amato and a number of both abortion rights and anti-abortion groups, some other abortion opponents see the shooting as justified.

"The shooter is a hero," said the Rev. Donald Spits, director of a group called Pro-Life Virginia. "Someone else who loved the babies that he planned on killing stopped the serial murderer."

Abortion rights groups say that after Slepian's death, a line appeared through his name on an anti-abortion Web site which posts the names of doctors who perform abortions. A heading said a line through a name represented a "fatality."

George Tiller, a Kansas doctor who performs abortions and who was wounded in an August 1993 shooting, called Slepian's slaying "a well-orchestrated political Armageddon against women and their freedom."

In the wake of the previous sniper attacks, abortion providers in western New York had been warned earlier in the week to be on guard for possible trouble. A reward of up to $100,000 Canadian (about $66,000 U.S.) was posted for information in the case.

Doctor expressed fears in interviews

In a 1991 interview, Slepian said he was not afraid for himself but rather for his wife and four children  

In media interviews before his death, Slepian often expressed his fears that abortion opponents were encouraging violence.

In a 1994 interview with Buffalo television station WIVB, he said, "Maybe they are not going to perform it, but they're setting up their soldiers to perform the violence."

Three years earlier, he had told the station that he was not afraid for himself but rather for his wife and four children.

"I think, if I wasn't around, what they would go through," he said.

Jill Polet, who once worked as a counselor in Slepian's clinic, said she has been trying to comfort his wife and four sons, the youngest of which is 7.

"When I walked in ... she said, 'How do I make sense out of this? No one can tell me how to make sense out of this.'" Polet said.

Correspondent Susan Candiotti and Reuters contributed to this report.

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