A Lifetime Channel movie is shining the spotlight on something very rare: Amish homicide.
The movie, Amish Stud: The Eli Weaver story debuts on Lifetime at 8 p.m. on Sept. 30.
We'll look at Eli Weaver's story later in this post, but first, how common is violence in the Amish community?
🔫 Violence and the Amish
Violence among the Amish is exceedingly rare.
After all, one of the cornerstones of Amish culture is pacifism. Of course, humans are human, and just because something is ingrained and baked in to beliefs doesn’t mean they are always adhered to. But the fact that pacifism is so much a part of Amish culture does tend to mean that violence is rare. Statistics are tough to come by, though.
According to widely circulated statistics, there have been only three murders committed in the history of the Amish in the USA and these were by spouses, including two cases of men killing their wives in the past 250 years. And I’ve heard of a case where an Amish man killed a baby with a sack of flour in the early 1900s but can't find much about it.
Now, are these the only cases of murder? Probably not. The Amish are a very insular society and I’m sure there have been plenty of unreported issues of domestic violence and such.
⚖️ Other Cases of Amish Murder & Violence
Beard Cutters of Bergholz: No homicides here, but Bishop Sam Mullet (pictured above) led a breakaway sect of Amish in Bergholz, Ohio to commit violent acts. A dispute with other Amish sparked Mullet to unleash followers to attack other Amish in 2011, cutting off their beards and injuring them. According to published reports:
Members of the community rousted five victims out of bed and chopped off their beards and hair with horse mane shears and battery-powered clippers. The attackers documented the attacks with a disposable camera.
Bergholz was eventually sentenced to prison for being the ringleader of the group.
Amish Pastor Sentenced: In 2006, an Amish minister, Samuel Bontrager, poisoned his 26-year-old wife in Missouri and moved to Kentucky with his children. But over the years his conscience ate away at him and ten years later her walked into a police post in Kentucky and confessed to the crime.
Amos Yoder: In Guthrie, Kentucky an elderly Amish man, Amos Yoder, was murdered in his sleep and his wife violently attacked and robbed. She was hospitalized but recovered from the attack which took place in 2015. The assailant remains unknown, but a lot of strange things about that case lead me to believe it may have been someone in the community who knew them well. But the wife has not been able or willing to identify the attacker.
Edward Gingerich: A Pennsylvania Amish man murdered his wife, Katie, by punching her and she fell to the floor. A jury found him guilty of manslaughter and he was sent to prison. Gingerich was found to have been mentally ill and had spent a lot of his adult life on medication. He was the first Amish man to have been convicted of homicide.
🚓 The Eli Weaver Story
Eli Weaver was a member of a very conservative Amish sect near Apple Creek, Ohio. However, in any religion, you will find wayward souls, those who do not adhere to the religious teachings. You find people anywhere with lust, darkness, and ill wishes in any culture or Church.
But it sounds like technology and Eli Weaver were a combustible combination.
Eli Weaver obtained a smartphone started downloading dating apps and approached women under the name “Amish Stud “
He left his church a time or two, but always came back. Many Amish find it difficult to adapt to the outside world, lacking a lot of the skills and education to navigate.
Eventually, he met a Mennonite woman, Barbara Raber, who served as a driver for the Amish community, and started having affair with her.
Raised Amish, Raber, was 46, and married with three children, Raber was one of several women with whom Weaver had illicit affairs. The two had sexual trysts in Weaver’s barn — the same building where his wife’s funeral would later be held.
Soon, Weaver and Raber began planning ways to get rid of his wife.
⚮ No Divorce in Amish Culture
This is where I can point to one aspect of Amish culture that perhaps creates a problem: divorce is not recognized. It simply isn’t permitted. A divorce usually means instant excommunication.
However, if somebody is widowed, they are embraced and showered with sympathy and they can get on with their life. So Amish men, or women, for that matter, who feel trapped in their marriage, who can’t seem to find a way out, well, I’m sure the vast majority would just remain in their unhappy relationships, or find the wherewithal to leave the church. But, in a handful of cases, it appears that the answer has been to become a widow in hopes for a new life
🙋 FAQ Amish and Murder
Cases of Amish on Amish murder or outsiders murdering an Amish are exceedingly rare. Only a handful - less than 10 - reported cases in over 250 years among a population that now exceeds 450,000.
In the most theological sense, no. Most Amish churches would teach that violence even in self-defense is not allowed. In practice, however, Amish are human and most like to live, so I think survival instincts kick in for people.
Investigators found that a Mennonite woman and mistress of Weaver killed Barbara Weaver with a shotgun.
📺 Amish Stud: The Eli Weaver Story
In Weaver's case he persuaded somebody else - Raber - to do the dirty work for him.
Weaver made sure he had an air-tight albi. He went out fishing with friends while Raber sneaked into the Weaver home and shot Barbara Weaver. Raber later claimed that she’d taken a gun from her husband’s cabinet, but didn’t remember loading it. She arrived at the Weaver house at about 4:30 a.m., entering through an unlocked basement door. She went to the bedroom, where she saw Barbara Weaver lying in bed. Raber said she "accidentally" shot Weaver that she had only intended to scare her. (sounds flimsy to me, why go through all the trouble of getting a gun, breaking into the house just to wave it around and scare someone?).
The five Weaver children were home asleep.
Just a heartbreaking story. The plot quickly unraveled and Raber and Weaver are both in prison. But in addition to murder, the whole ordeal looks at Amish culture and some of its complexities.
When to view: Sept 30 at 8 p.m. Eastern or available for streaming. Check out Lifetime's website for more details.