Slain New York doctor mourned; police ask for information
October 27, 1998
AMHERST, New York (CNN) -- As family and friends mourned Dr. Barnett Slepian on the day of his funeral Monday, police and the FBI held a news conference to ask for help in finding his killer, offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
Anyone with information, "even if seemingly unrelated," is asked to contact authorities, said John Askey, chief of police in Amherst, New York, the Buffalo suburb where Slepian was gunned down at his home by a sniper Friday night.
Investigators speculate that the killer, who remains at large, is someone opposed to the abortions the 52-year-old obstetrician-gynecologist performed as part of his practice. Authorities did not reveal any leads in the case during the news conference.
The police chief said the sniper hid in a wooded area near Slepian's home "for an undetermined period of time" before firing one shot from a high-powered rifle.
Several hundred mourners attended the private funeral service for Slepian, who is survived by a wife and four sons.
A letter from President Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton was read, while a rabbi who delivered the eulogy called Slepian someone who "lived to love and loved to live."
One local man, Alan Dickison, arrived in tears outside the funeral home with his daughters Connor, 4, and Kelsey, 2, who were both delivered by Slepian.
"I want him to be remembered as a birth doctor who brought my two daughters into the world, not an abortion doctor," Dickison said.
Abortion rights advocate Mary Lou Greenberg of New York City said she went to Amherst to support the clinic and the work of abortion providers nationwide.
"Women must have the right to choose whether they want to give birth or not, otherwise women cannot be free," Greenberg said outside the funeral home. "Without providers like Dr. Slepian, women cannot be free. The right to choose is a hollow right without providers like him."
Slepian's family asked that, instead of cards and flowers, contributions in the doctor's memory be sent to the Pro Choice Network.
A joint Canadian-American task force is investigating the killing as part of its probe into a series of attacks on abortion providers in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and New York that may be linked to Slepian's death.
The earlier shootings, none of which was fatal, began in November 1994. All happened within weeks of November 11, Veteran's Day, or Remembrance Day, as it is known in Canada. Authorities are not 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.
Askey said that police had no description of Slepian's shooter, but that the wooded area behind his home is "frequented by many young people" and police hoped that someone saw something that will lead them to the killer.
He also said that on Friday afternoon, Slepian's wife faxed a notice to an acquaintance of the family who is a member of the Amherst police department. That fax, from a national group that supports abortion providers, warned of the possibility of violence and cautioned doctors to contact their local police.
Askey said that Slepian's wife did not ask for any assistance and none was provided.
Since the attack, Askey said, "We have stepped up security (for abortion providers) locally, and we hope that it will be stepped up nationwide through the U.S. marshals."
Reuters contributed to this report.
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