STEUBENVILLE - Numerous members of the Amish community near Bergholz are under investigation by at least four sheriff's departments involving incidents in which homes were broken into and Amish victims had their hair and beards cut off.
The Jefferson County Sheriff's Department received two reports on Tuesday from individuals in Holmes and Carroll counties involving hair-cutting incidents.
In Carroll County, a group of men knocked on a door of another man's home, pulled him out by his beard and tried to cut off his beard, reports state. The Carroll County Sheriff's Department reported the Amish men referred to themselves as being part of the "Bergholz Clan."
In Holmes County, a group of Amish men allegedly burst into a home and cut the hair off men and women inside and cut the beards off the men. Holmes County Sheriff Timothy Zimmerly said the victims included a 13-year-old girl and a 74-year-old man. Zimmerly and one of his detectives were at the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department Wednesday morning gathering evidence from a truck and horse trailer that was believed to have been used in connection with the assaults Tuesday.
Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla said there was an incident in Trumbull County about three weeks ago in which a group of Amish men and women from Bergholz went to a home in that county and cut the hair off men and women inside. Abdalla said hair from the victims was brought back to Jefferson County to prove to Sam Mullet, the bishop of the Bergholz group, that Mullet's orders concerning the hair cutting was followed.
A truck and horse trailer used to transport the Bergholz men was traced back to a man living outside Dillonvale. The driver said he went to a horse auction in Mount Hope in Holmes County on Tuesday with 27 Amish persons, who rode in the truck and horse trailer, according to a report from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department.
The men asked the driver to stop at a home in Holmes County. A group of the men got out of the truck, walked up to the house and then came back, telling the driver to "go," according to the driver's statement given to Jefferson County sheriff's deputies.
The driver said the same thing happened at the home in Carroll County, according to the sheriff's department.
The driver told a deputy he thought the situation seemed suspicious, but the men were speaking "Dutch."
The truck and horse trailer were towed to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department, where the Holmes County Sheriff's Department searched for hair evidence.
Zimmerly said Holmes County will be seeking felonious assault and burglary charges against the men involved.
Abdalla said Carroll County also will be pursuing criminal charges.
A group of 35 Amish residents in the Bergholz area filed a $35 million federal lawsuit against the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department concerning a Sept. 17, 2007, raid on their property that was part of a child custody case.
The lawsuit claims the sheriff's department special response team surrounded the Amish schoolhouse and the home of Mullet in an attempt to retrieve two children that were part of a custody case in Jefferson County Common Pleas Court.
A member of the Bergholz Amish community, Crist Mullet was sentenced to six months in the Eastern Ohio Correction Center in October 2008 by Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge David Henderson for his guilty plea to three counts of of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.
Crist Mullet was designated as a Tier II sex offender, which requires him to report his address to the county sheriff every 180 days for 25 years.