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Amish gang wanted over midnight 'haircutting' assaults

Opposing gangs in the Amish community have been breaking into each other’s houses and cutting their hair and beards.

An Amish buggy drives away from a Wal-Mart store in Ohio.
An Amish buggy drives away from a Wal-Mart store in Ohio.
Image: Amy Sancetta/AP

POLICE IN OHIO have launched an investigation into disputes that have emerged between two rival Amish groups – where one is accused of breaking into the others’ quarters and cutting their hair.

Men – and sometimes women – from a group of Amish families in Jefferson County are thought to be behind attacks on around a half-dozen victims, who have had their hair or beards cut off in the odd assaults.

Police officials say the investigation has been hampered by the traditional reluctance of Amish to seek the help of outside law enforcement.

The violence may relate to unspecified religious differences involving 18 Amish families – 17 of whom are related – who have drawn previous attention from law enforcement.

One of the people from those families is known to police after threatening a sheriff; another relative has been previously convicted of sexual contact with a minor.

The families under investigation live in a small hilled community in Ohio, where they run a leather shop and do carpentry work, the sheriff said.

In a case in Trumbull County, a 57-year-old woman blamed her sons and a son-in-law for an attack on her husband, whose beard was cut off, and said they were involved in a cult.

The sons and son-in-law “did that to him,” the woman told deputies, pointing at her husband’s ragged, short beard.

Then she took off a bandana and showed bare scalp patches and said, “They did this to me.”

Deputies had visited the couple’s home before AP journalists visited, but the couple said they didn’t want to file a complaint – before repeatedly asking police that their sons be informed of their decision.

It’s common practice for married Amish men to have beards, said Donald Kraybill, a professor at Elizabethtown College and an expert on Amish life. ”Likewise, women do not cut their hair based on biblical teaching.”

Cutting the hair and beards is, as a result, considered a degrading and insulting act to Amish people. Kraybill said Amish-on-Amish violence “is extremely rare.”

Abdalla said it was frustrating that the Amish avoid filing complaints. ”You see this crime being committed, and I’m sitting here with my hands tied,” he said. “I can’t do a thing.”

The leader of the families resisted a conciliation attempt by Amish leaders several years ago, Abdalla said. ”He’s just like a lone wolf out there,” he said.

Additional reporting by AP

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Gavan Reilly

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