STEUBENVILLE, Ohio — An elderly Amish man was attacked by his own son, who a sheriff said cut the man’s hair and beard in the latest incident in a breakaway Amish community. The victim told the sheriff he was scared and upset but wouldn’t press charges.
“I’m frustrated with it. I’m upset with it. And, here again, the man doesn’t want to file charges because of his belief,” Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla said Friday.
Abdalla warned the son in advance that he didn’t want trouble and parked nearby during the father-son reunion, the first in several years.
The sheriff said the elderly man was attacked Wednesday while visiting his son in the breakaway Amish community that’s home to five suspects charged in an earlier beard-cutting attack. The son, whose father-in-law is the group’s leader, wasn’t among those charged earlier, Abdalla said.
Authorities in three other counties are investigating similar alleged attacks.
Such hair-cutting attacks are offensive to the Amish because they believe the Bible instructs women to let their hair grow long and men to grow beards and stop shaving once they marry.
The man, who Abdalla said was in his 70s, went to his son’s home and the two talked. The man said his son then attacked him, with the help of the son’s children, and wrestled the elderly man to the ground, Abdalla said.
The sheriff said the elderly man’s wife tried to help her husband but was held back by her daughter-in-law.
“This guy was just totally destroyed after this happened. They just humiliated him. I talked to him. I mean, the guy’s a broken man,” Abdalla said.
Abdalla said the beard-cutting incidents are related to Sam Mullet, leader of the breakaway Amish group in the Bergholz area. The group has had differences with other bishops over the handling of church matters, and Abdalla said the son of the latest victim is married to Mullet’s daughter.
Mullet told The Associated Press last month that the hair-cutting was a response to criticism of his leadership from other Amish bishops.
“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,” Mullet said.
The sheriff said the latest victim traveled from Ashland County in response to an invitation from his son.
The attacks in September and October struck at the core of the Amish identity and tested their principles. While it’s uncommon for the Amish to take disputes public and enlist authorities, there is no central authority to decide so it usually falls to the church leaders or those involved.
Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins has said an Amish man came to his office with an attorney earlier this fall and tried to surrender in the September attack on a couple in Mesopotamia in northeast Ohio. Watkins said he turned the man away because no charges were filed in that case.
In that case, a 57-year-old woman blamed her sons and a son-in-law for an attack on her husband and said they were involved in a cult in the county 75 northwest of Steubenville.