Who are Dylann Roof’s parents? His father abused his stepmom regularly

A 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld Dylann Roof’s conviction and death sentence for murdering nine Black South Carolina church members. Few, if any, expected the court to vacate his conviction and sentence, given the gruesome and hateful nature of his crimes. 

“No cold record or careful parsing of statutes and precedents can capture the full horror of what Roof did,” the unanimous bench wrote. After Dylann committed his crimes, the media launched an inquest into his parents and upbringing, hoping to find a reason behind such extremism. 

Roof’s uncooperative parents and family hampered the inquest, but investigators managed to craft a rough timeline of his upbringing. Read on to find out more about Dylann Roof’s parents. 

Dylann’s father was abusive to Dylann’s stepmother, who treated Dylann as her biological son

Dylann’s father, Franklin Bennett ‘Benn’ Roof, was a 25-year-old construction worker when he met Dylann’s mom, the then 29-year-old Amelia ‘Amy’ Cowles. 

In 1988, the pair married and welcomed their daughter Amber. They divorced in 1991, briefly reconciled a couple of years later, and on 3rd April 1994 welcomed Dylann Roff. 

Franklin and Amy’s reconciliation didn’t last long. In 1998, Franklin married Paige Hastings, who became a mother to Amber, Dylann, and the couple’s child Morgan Roof. “I raised his kids from a very young age, took them to all of their activities,” Paige wrote in an affidavit accompanying the couple’s 2009 divorce. 

Unfortunately, Benn was controlling and verbally abusive towards Paige. She responded to a physical assault in 2009 by filing for divorce. Sally Moore wrote an affidavit supporting Paige’s divorce from Benn. Moore wrote:

“Benn was tough on Paige. He called her several times a day to check up on her and find out what she was doing and what was for dinner, if he should make it home. Paige has lived for 10 years with rules to follow as a wife of Bennett Roof.”

Paige felt guilty leaving Dylann to Benn, but there was little she could do to keep him. Dylann’s downward spiral started soon after Benn and Paige’s divorce. He dropped out of school, became hooked on drugs, and started his radicalization. 

Few of Dylann’s family members attended his trial, presumably fearing the spotlight. However, others, like Dylann’s uncle, Carson Cowles, believed Dylann to be guilty. “He’s guilty as hell,” Carson told the L.A Times. “He’ll got no sympathy from us, any of us.”

Dylann showed little remorse and mocked his parents when they visited him in jail

In his manifesto, Roof declared that his parents had nothing to do with his beliefs. In Roof’s car, investigators found what seemed to be suicide notes addressed to his parents.

“As childish as it sounds, I wish I was in your arms,” he told Amy. “I love you and I’m sorry,” Roof addressed Benn. Amy suffered a heart attack after prosecutors referred to Dylann as a cold-blooded murderer. 

Dylann, on the other hand, showed little regard for his parents’ emotions when they visited him in jail. In videos released of Dylann’s prison visits, jurors saw him laughing at and mocking his parents. 

“What is wrong with you, son?” Benn asked the grinning Dylann. “You’ve got to be kidding me. Don’t do something stupid. You’ve already done enough!” Benn walked away in tears, leaving Amy with the unenviable task of instilling some sense into Dylann. 

Based on the videos, the court ruled Dylann competent to stand trial. It seems unlikely that Dylann will succeed in overturning his federal death penalty conviction. 

A question that has lingered since the murders is: What role did Dylann’s parents play in turning their son into a murderer? One of Roof’s old friends, Christon Scriven, told AP News that Roof’s parents discouraged him from having black friends. 

“I don’t think his parents liked his decisions, the choices that he made to have black friends,” Christon said. Dylann’s parents came under the spotlight again after authorities arrested Dylann’s sister, Morgan, for spreading racial hate and carrying a weapon on school grounds. 

Morgan protested a march by students against racial violence. She wrote on Snapchat:

“You’re walking out of the allowed time of 17min, they are letting you do this, nothing is gonna change what tf you think it’s gonna do? I hope it’s a trap and y’all get shot we know it’s fixing to be nothing but black people walking out anyway.”

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