Beginning in Switzerland in 1693, the Amish church is a group of traditionalist Christians known for their large families, simple living and reluctance to adopt modern technology. Though their world revolves around living by the standards of what they interpret to be God’s word, a steady rise in their population has led to more members of the church finding themselves in the crosshairs of the law. The following ten examines a series of both amusing and tragic occurrences within the religious sect too bizarre to comprehend or imagine.
10 Religious Tipplers
In the eyes of the law, it does not matter what a person is driving – be it a car or a horse-drawn buggy—if you are impaired, you will be arrested. Such was the case for a heavily intoxicated 21-year-old Amish man who blew through a stop sign after chugging 10 beers. Believing that he was witnessing a runaway horse, a deputy in Geauga County, Ohio pursued the buggy until the inebriated gent arrived at his farm. After failing a field sobriety test, the religious tippler traded in his 19th-century ride for the back seat of a patrol car.
A similar incident occurred in 2011 when an Amish teenage in Conewango, New York led police on a slow-speed chase. Lewis D. Hostetler, 17, refused to halt his horse after police witnessed him drinking beer in his carriage. The rebellious speedster was eventually charged with resisting arrest, littering on a highway, unlawful possession of alcohol, insufficient tail lamps and obstructing governmental administration.
While amusing, the previous two boozers pale in comparison to the rowdiness four teens displayed in upstate New York. In the summer of 2012, an inebriated Amish quartet had the bright idea to drag race their horse-drawn buggies down a dark rural road. When authorities arrived on the scene, one of the horses crashed into a police cruiser causing the buggy to flip over. Though the four youths were fortunate to walk away from the accident unscathed, they were charged with underage possession of alcohol.
9 Fatal Mishaps
Just three days shy of his 10th birthday, a gruesome accident would forever change the life of Samuel Herschberger. While completing his farm chores on the afternoon of August 22, 1991, Samuel fell into a tractor-powered drive shaft. Seconds later, the boys left arm and right foot were ripped off, his scalp was peeled from his head, and his right arm was crushed to pieces. By some miracle, Samuel survived the horrendous ordeal and went on to become the most famous Amish person in Illinois—if not the entire nation. With his plight making headlines across the country, donations came pouring in for the Herschberger family who was facing a quarter-million dollars in medical bills.
Unlike Samuel who was fortunate enough to escape with his life, Jacob Stutzman of Indiana would not be so lucky. While tending to his duties in the fall of 2013, the 23-year-old Amish man slipped and fell, landing onto a moving saw blade. Deputies and first responders rushed to the sawmill only to find that any attempt of revival would be futile. Consequently, Stutzman was pronounced dead at the scene adding to the growing number of tragic accidental farm fatalities.
8 A Shot In The Dark
Returning from a Christmas party in northern Ohio in December 2011, Rachel Yoder was less than three miles from home when the unthinkable happened. Out from the sky plummeted a single .50-caliber bullet, striking the 15-year-old in the head. As she lay dying in her buggy, her horse continued on the path carting her home. Later that evening, Rachel’s brother noticed the horse and buggy going in circles on the family farm. Moments later, he found his sister lying in the dirt unresponsive, slowly slipping away. The following day, Rachel was gone. At first, police suspected that the girl had fallen from the buggy and hit her head, however, her death was officially ruled a homicide following an autopsy.
Five months after her death, Rachel’s family finally received closure. Marion Yoder – no relation to Rachel – turned himself in to authorities after an arrest warrant was issued.
On that fateful winter evening, 28-year-old Yoder was returning from a hunting trip when he fired a single round from his rifle into the air. Though implausible to comprehend, the bullet traveled more than a mile before finding its way to Rachel. While Yoder was initially charged with felony reckless homicide, Rachel’s family intervened opposing the charges. Given the circumstances, they felt that it was not just to proceed with a felony charge. Instead, Yoder pled guilty to a misdemeanor count of negligent homicide and was sentenced to 180 days in jail. In the end, the judge suspended all but 30 days of his sentence.
7 No Profit = Bullet
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania is home to one of the “most secretive” residents and industries in America. The county—referred to as the “puppy mill capital of the U.S.” – is where you’ll find hundreds of dogs crammed into small crates stacked one on top of the other. These barns and sheds are mainly dominated by the Amish where a dog’s life is nothing more than dollar signs for the devoted religious sect. Female breeders often spend their entire lives producing innumerable litters until their body gives out, in which case they are euthanized with a bullet. The puppies that are produced like an assembly line are then sold to pet stores or at auctions. In Lancaster County, an estimated 600 unlicensed facilities are currently in operation where their breeders go through great lengths to avoid discovery. Such measures entail “de-barking” the puppies by shoving hammer sharp instruments down their throats to scar their vocal cords.
In 2013, two Amish men were arrested in central New York for killing a dog and her nine puppies after the Australian red heeler’s failed to sell. The DA stated that Merlin Schmucker, 26, and Jonathan Eicher, 19, shot the litter and then disposed of them in a roadside ditch where they were found by a highway crew. According to Eicher, their actions are acceptable among the Amish under these particular circumstances. Fortunately, Town Justice Carol Heald felt differently and sentenced the two to 30 days in county jail. In addition, each was fined $500 and barred from owning dogs for 15 years.
6 Secret Ingredient
To preserve their simple lifestyle reminiscent of the 19th century, the Amish shun various necessities such as licenses, high school education and of course, electricity. This has spurred much scrutiny for home bakers in Amish enclaves who sell their goods, such as meat and cheeses, to residents in their community. Without refrigeration requirements, food safety overseers constantly worry of food poisoning outbreaks causing much strife between them and the religious sect.
For several Amish bakers in Pennsylvania, their freedom of religion crossed many grotesque boundaries, to say the least. In the spring of 2019, police received an anonymous tip that Yoder Baked Goods – a bakery in Lancaster County – was using “questionable ingredients.” By all appearances, the shop was clean and compliant for food safety. Upon further investigation, however, it was discovered that the bakery’s whoopie pies – either a cookie pie or cake – were made with human breast milk. While the white fatty liquid from an Amish princess psychologically trapped in the 1800s may be unappetizing, it is unlikely to pose a danger to consumers. Nonetheless, it is not only disgusting but against the law to use human fluids in food. The bakery has since been shut down.
5 Romancing The Cattle
In 2010, two Amish brothers from Lancaster, Wisconsin were arrested on a string of sexual charges. In what the county Sheriff described as one of the strangest and most disturbing cases he has seen, Christian G. Stolzfus, 19, and Dannie G. Stolzfus, 18, sexually abused at least six family members, ages ranging from 5 to 16 years old. To add fuel to an already disgusting and bizarre inferno, the dynamic duo was also charged with bestiality. Authorities claimed that the passionate encounters with multiple animals occurred on the family’s Grant County farm over a three to four-year period. As the saying goes, ‘love is in the eye of the beholder’ and with that, of all the livestock that truly captivated the brothers’ lust was a cow and a horse. Following their arrest, the two were charged with repeated sexual assault of a child, exposing their genitals or pubic area, and two counts of sexual gratification with an animal.
Although Christian faced more than 400 years in prison subsequent to his conviction, he was only sentenced to one year in jail for sexually assaulting a child. As for his brother and partner in crime, Dannie, his records remain sealed although it is safe to assume he too received a slap on the wrist. One can only hope they go vegan, however, time will tell if they hunger for cattle yet again.
4 Amish Dr. Ruth
From September to November in 2011, members of a breakaway Amish group carried out a series of attacks on Amish locals in Bergholz, Ohio. According to authorities, the squad of religious rascals made late-night visits to homes of former acquaintances where they would forcefully cut off the beards of the men and give the ladies a charming buzz cut using clippers. Afterward the ostracized barbers took photos of their work to show their leader Sam Mullet. Mullet admitted that his intentions were to send a message to other Amish that they should be ashamed of themselves for the way his community had been treated. Specifically, “They changed the rulings of our church here, and they’re trying to force their way down our throat, make us do like they want us to do, and we’re not going to do that.” One of Mullet’s victims told the FBI that he would rather have been “beaten black and blue than to suffer the disfigurement and humiliation of having his hair removed,” given that cutting of the hair is a highly offensive act in the Bible. After months of living in fear and stacking up on door locks, mace, and shotguns, local authorities were alerted who requested the FBI’s involvement.
Eventually, the compound of the deranged Amish sect was raided and Mullet – along with several of his followers—were charged with hate crimes. Further investigation revealed that aside from the groups’ impromptu salon expertise, Mullet ordered beatings of those who disobeyed him. In particular, the 67-year-old father of 18 forced some members to sleep in a chicken coop. If that’s not romantic enough, Mullet was also charged with sex crimes after it emerged that he had forcefully bedded many of his followers’ wives – including some of his daughter-in-laws – to “cleanse them of the devil.” According to his attorney, the passionate senior citizen was merely acting as an “Amish Dr. Ruth.” In the end, Mullet was convicted and sentenced to 11 years in prison.
3 Over The Hill Testicles
In the early morning hours of July 23, 2013, Deputy Adam Hughes was dispatched to a farmhouse in Webster County, Missouri. There he encountered 23-year-old Jacob Schwartz lying in bed in a pool of blood. When asked what happened, Schwartz calmly and matter-of-factly said that he had gone outside and castrated himself. As if there was no emergency, Hughes asked Schwartz to describe in detail the events that led to his current dilemma. According to the Amish eunuch, Schwartz cut open his scrotum and then “cut off his testicles with a knife and threw them over the hill.” Afterward, he put blood-stop powder on the wound and went to bed to count sheep. At one point during the delightful questioning, Schwartz began to have a seizure and ultimately became unconscious before being transported to the hospital by ambulance. Upon searching the house and perimeter, police could not find any evidence of the man’s castration (testicles) nor was there blood on the premises other than in Schwartz’s bedroom. The County Sheriff immediately became skeptical stating, “I find it hard to accept what the 23-year-old man said as being completely truthful. I think that what he said he did to himself would be very, very hard to do.” Sheriff Cole went on to state that if unless someone comes forward with a different version as to how Schwartz’s testicles were sliced, diced and thrown to greener pastures, no charges can be brought. “It’s been a month since this happened, and I don’t see that happening, although, as I said before, it’s hard for me to believe the story we were told.”
2 “Amish Stud”
“Where did my friend, love, trustworthy husband go to? He hates me to the core,” Barbara Weaver lamented in a letter written to her counselor shortly before her murder. The 30-year-old Amish mother of five had been fighting to save her marriage to a relentlessly unfaithful and abusive man known as the “Amish Stud” on dating sites. During their 10-year marriage, Eli Weaver abandoned his family twice to live as “English,” only to repent a short time later. In the summer of 2009, however, Eli officially had enough of family life and began plotting with his girlfriend, Barb Raber, to kill his wife. “Maybe you could blow up the house?” Weaver texted Raber—a married mother of three – to which she replied, “What about your kids?” “The kids will go to heaven because they’re innocent.” Ultimately, the homicidal lovers who enjoyed sexual trysts in Weaver’s Ohio barn chose a bullet as the best method of execution. At 3:30 a.m. on June 2, 2009, Eli left his house to go fishing knowing full well he would never see his wife alive again. One hour later, Raber entered the Weaver home through an unlocked basement door armed with a shotgun. Quietly, she crept her way up the stairs and into the dark hallway before coming to Barbara’s bedroom. Seconds later, Barbara was dead having been shot through the heart as she slept. It wouldn’t be long before detectives saw through their diabolical scheme, arresting both of them the following week. In the end, Barb Raber was convicted of aggravated murder and sentenced to 23 years to life while Eli was found guilty of complicity to commit murder and sentenced to 15 years to life. In one of Barbara’s final letters she wrote of her husband, “I often think of Christ’s words: ‘Forgive him, for he knows not what he does.’?”
1 First Amish Conviction
On March 18, 1993, Edward Gingerich walked into the office of his chiropractor with complaints of a headache. He was given a scalp massage, instructed to drink molasses and then sent on his way back to his farmhouse in northwestern Pennsylvania. Several hours later, Gingerich beat his wife Katie to death before cutting out her intestines. Their 5-year-old who witnessed the horrific slaying fled the farm and ran to his Uncle Daniel’s house for help. By the time Daniel arrived on horseback, he found his brother in the kitchen sitting on Katie’s naked corpse. At that moment, Daniel hastily went to a neighbor’s house to call the police. Gingerich was later arrested, not at his home, but walking in a daze down a country road with his 3-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son. Following his arrest, the Amish lunatic told police that he had been possessed by the devil and that he was fully aware that his children were present when he disemboweled his wife.
Just over a year after the brutal murder, Gingerich was convicted of involuntary manslaughter becoming the first Amish person tried and sentenced for criminal homicide. On March 19, 1998—exactly five years and one day since the night he committed the unspeakable – Gingerich was released from a State Correctional Institution and transferred to an Amish mental health facility in Michigan. Over the years, he would move from state to state before returning to Pennsylvania in February 2007. In January 2011, Gingerich committed suicide in a barn by hanging himself from a ceiling beam.