CLEVELAND An elderly Amish man had his hair and beard chopped off by his son and grandsons in the latest Ohio incident believed to be connected to a breakaway Amish group, police said on Friday.
The man so far has not pressed charges, sticking with the Amish tendency not to contact police, Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla said. But the attack has drawn the focus of Abdalla and the FBI, which is investigating other beard-cutting incidents that have resulted in five arrests.
"It's so frustrating. It's a criminal act, and I'm less than two hundred yards away from it happening. I can't arrest the character because his father refuses to file a complaint," Abdalla said. "But we're pursuing it, and we're pursuing it harder than ever because of this case."
Amish men typically don't trim their beards after they marry, making beard-cutting an especially hostile act.
Abdalla said the incidents were connected to Sam Mullet, leader of a breakaway Amish group. Mullet has orchestrated the beard-cuttings as revenge for being shunned by the Amish community, Abdalla said. The victims previously have lived in Mullet's community or have family members who live there.
Abdalla said the man had received letters from his estranged son asking to reconcile their religious differences.
The sheriff said he escorted the father and his wife to the son's house Wednesday before a dinner and warned the son not to attack his father. Nervous that something might happen, Abdalla said he parked a couple of hundred yards away.
The previously long-bearded father emerged from the house about two hours later virtually clean-shaven and with tattered hair, he said. His son and two grandsons had attacked him while his wife was held back by his daughter-in-law, who is a daughter of Sam Mullet, Abdalla said.
"He was just demoralized. He was just broken. He wouldn't even look at me he was so embarrassed of what happened. My heart broke for the guy," Abdalla said.
The son took pictures of his father's face after the attack that could be a trophy for Mullet, Abdalla said. Mullet has been given hair clippings from previous attacks, he said.
"I'd like to see Sam Mullet convicted and taken from the community. You just can't realize the power and domination he has over his people," Abdalla said.
Mullet has not been charged. Neither Mullet nor any of the five men arrested in previous incidents could be reached for comment. The other five men face charges of kidnapping and aggravated burglary.
(Reporting and writing by Roy Strom; Additional reporting by Kim Palmer in Cleveland; Editing by David Bailey)