Amish Men's Beards Cut Off; Police Suspect Amish-On-Amish Violence

Sheriff’s deputies are closing in on suspects from a troublemaking Amish splinter group in Ohio who have broken into homes and cut off the beards and hair of other Amish men.

Authorities tell HuffPost Crime they are planning to arrest at least four men who are followers of Sam Mullet, a bishop who Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla said has clashed with other Amish leaders for years.

At least three attacks in rural eastern Ohio since September prompted the victims — all Amish — to look outside their traditionalist community to seek help from local police.

In one nighttime raid in Carroll County, a group of men knocked on a door, pulled a man out by the beard and tried to chop off his facial hair, the Wheeling Intelligencer reports.


Amish do not shave or cut their hair, believing that it’s forbidden by the Bible, said Donald Kraybill, an expert who studies the religious minority at Elizabethtown College. To forcibly lob off their locks is a direct insult to their identity, Kraybill said.

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  • 3 men charged in Amish beard cutting

    By Michael A. Fuoco

    Ohio authorities have charged three men with cutting off an Amish man’s beard – an act degrading to the Amish – and promise more arrests in that case and three others, all said to involve members of a group of former Amish who have split from the main community.

    Two of the three men are sons of Sam Mullet, 66, who heads the breakaway group that lives in a compound with houses, barns, outbuildings, and a schoolhouse in a valley near the Ohio River in Bergholz, Jefferson County.

    Arrested Saturday morning in Jefferson County were Mullet’s sons Johnny, 38, and Lester, 26, and a third man, Levi Miller, 53. All three are members of the Bergholz group of about 16 families, Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla said.

    The men are charged with kidnapping and burglary in an attack Tuesday in Holmes County, Ohio. In that case, the victim, who is 74, was in bed with his wife when six men broke into their home and held him in a chair. They used scissors and clippers to remove the man’s beard.

    The three men were being held in the Jefferson County Jail on $250,000 bond, pending extradition to Holmes County.

    Authorities on Saturday morning initially arrested Lester Miller (no relation to Levi Miller), 38, of Hammandsville, but released him because he did not participate in the attack even though he was at the scene, Abdalla said. Two more arrests are pending in the Holmes County case, Abdalla said.

    He plans to bring more charges against Levi Miller this week in connection with an attack on his brother-in-law in Jefferson County on Sept. 24.

    In addition, a grand jury is considering charges in a Tuesday attack on Myron Miller in Mechanicstown, Carroll County. Miller is bishop of the Mechanicstown Amish church. A Sept. 6 attack in Trumbull County is also under investigation. In that case, an older couple who had left the Bergholz group were attacked by their children, who are still in the group, according to Myron Miller’s wife, Arlene.

    In all of the cases, the attackers cut the beards of Amish men or the hair of Amish women. Once married, Amish men let their beards grow and women do the same with their hair, following what they believe is a biblical prescript. Cutting off an Amish man’s beard or an Amish woman’s hair therefore represents a religious as well as a physical attack.

    “One Amish told me he’d rather die than have his beard cut off. It’s humiliating, embarrassing, degrading to them,” Abdalla said.

    “It’s bizarre,” he said of the crimes, which have been covered by national and some international media. “I guess the reason it’s gaining so much publicity is that no one has ever heard of Amish-on-Amish crime like this.”

    Abdalla said it was believed the attacks stemmed from an upbraiding the elder Mullet received four years ago when 300 bishops from Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York convened and criticized him for his leadership of his group and for ordering the “shunning” of two families.

    “They brought him on the carpet, and he told them to go to hell. He thumbed his nose at them,” Abdalla said.

    The bishops’ action prompted Mullet’s move to Jefferson County. The community has grown since then and has had an adversarial relationship with local law enforcement, said Abdalla, who said one of Mullet’s sons threatened his life.

    He believes the recent attacks are Mullet’s response to the reprimand from the bishops’ committee. “He’s not Amish, but he says he’s Amish. He’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” the sheriff said.

    “Two of these attacks involved bishops so you could say it is retaliation with religious implications.”

    Asked whether Mullet would be charged in the crimes, Abdalla said: “Not at this time.”

    Asked whether Mullet was a person of interest in the investigations, he said: “He’s more than that. Nothing moves without him saying it’s OK; everybody out there answers to him. Nobody does anything without him putting his blessing on it.”

    Abdalla said that he had been investigating activities of the elder Mullet and his group for years but that until the most recent victims of the attacks decided to press charges, he was stuck.

    He said he had received reports, but had not been able to confirm, that the group held a man in a chicken coop for 10 to 15 days. He said the suspects confirmed during questioning that they had held the man against his will.

    The attacks have caused fear throughout the Amish community nationwide, he said.

    “These people had a hit list. We know four other people they were going to target. Who knows when it would have ended?”

  • Seven members of Amish breakaway group arrested over haircut attacks

    US authorities raid compound and arrest seven men – including group leader Sam Mullet – on federal hate crime charges

    AP, November 23

    US authorities have raided the compound of a breakaway Amish religious group and arrested seven men on federal hate crime charges in haircutting attacks against Amish men and women.

    Cutting the hair is a highly offensive act to the traditional Amish, who believe the Bible instructs women to let their hair grow long and men to grow beards and stop shaving once they marry. Several members of the breakaway group forcefully cut the beards and hair of Amish men and women in September and October, authorities said.

    Among those arrested Wednesday were the group’s leader, Sam Mullet, and three of his sons, said Mike Tobin, a spokesman for the US attorney’s office in Cleveland. He said authorities were planning to hold a news conference on Wednesday afternoon to explain why they charged the men with hate crimes.

  • Amish Sect Leader Gets 15 Years in Beard-Cutting Attacks

    New York Times, By Trip Gabriel, February 8

    The leader of a dissident Amish sect was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Friday for a series of bizarre beard- and hair-cutting attacks on other Ohio Amish that drew national attention.

    Samuel Mullet Sr., 67, the leader, was sentenced in Federal District Court in Cleveland, for coordinating assaults that prosecutors argued were motivated by religious intolerance. Fifteen of his followers, including six women, were given lesser sentences ranging from one year and one day to seven years by Judge Dan Aaron Polster.

    The breakaway Amish were convicted last fall under multiple counts of conspiracy and hate crimes, which carry harsher punishment than simple assault. Prosecutors had asked for a life sentence for Mr. Mullet. Defense lawyers claimed the government was blowing out of proportion personal vendettas that Mr. Mullet harbored against former followers and other critics, and that the hair- and beard-cutting was humiliating but not physically injurious, and thus did not deserve a lengthy sentence.

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