When you think of the Amish People, what comes to mind. If you are like most, it’s a horse-drawn carriage rolling over idyllic hills and dales past farms lined with barns adorned with colorful “hex” symbols.
Certainly, you would never think of brutal murder!
For sure, the Amish are folks of quiet and conservative faith. They preach Christian values, adhere to pacifism, abhor violence and steer clear of most of the modern vices of outsiders. And yet, even among these peaceful people, there lurk some individuals with more vile impulse.
One night in June of 2009, Barbara Weaver, a 30-year-old mother of five and a devout member of the Old Order Amish church in Apple Creek, Ohio, was fatally shot while sleeping in her own bed. The community was even more, rocked to its core when her husband, Eli, was charged with savage killing. It was only the third time an Amish man was suspected of killing his wife in the 250 years the Amish have lived in America. A new book, “A Killing in Amish Country: Sex, Betrayal and a Cold-blooded Murder” by Rebecca Morris and Gregg Olsen, takes a look at the chilling case.
The Amish are supposed to decry the use of technology. But, apparently, there are few like Eli, who can be found trawling the dark underbelly of social media. According to the book, Eli had a profile on the platform MocoSpace, where he went by the handle “Amish Stud.” His online profile asked, “Who wants 2 do an Amish guy!” Dozens of women — with screen names like 2_much_ass, 69smileygirl, and naughtylittlesexysexslave — all apparently wanted very much to “2 do an Amish guy.”
For sexually repressed Eli, it was all fun and games for a while.
Weaver, now 36, and his wife were members of Andy Weaver Amish, one of the most conservative Amish subgroups in America. He left several times during his 10-year marriage to live as “English” — the term the Amish ascribe to any outsider. But he later repented, was forgiven, and was allowed to reenter the community and return to his wife and children.
Eli had a solid alibi on the day that Barbara was shot. However, neighbors and family kept mentioning one name — Barb Raber. Raised among the Weaver Amish, Rabar left the sect and was now a “taxi lady,” a person that would drive Amish to places they could not get to by horse and buggy.
Apparently, Eli had an ongoing illicit affair with Raber, even have sex with her in the very same barn in which his wife’s funeral would later take place!
Barbara Weaver’s sister, Fannie Troyer, said that Eli Weaver wouldn’t give his wife enough money to care for the home or children. His business was doing well – he owned a hunting store – cutting his wife short had nothing to do with a lack of funds. Troyer said it was his way of controlling her sister.
She said that when it was her turn to bake pies for church, Weaver wouldn’t even give Barbara the money to buy the ingredients. “That humiliated her,” Troyer said.
The kids said that there was a history of their father beating their mother. But, in a community like the Amish, abused women almost never come forward to the town elders, as they would likely be asked, “What did you do to deserve such treatment from your husband?”
But why the murder? If Eli had left the community to give in to his sexual appetite, he would have been “shunned,” a kind of excommunication that would mean he could never come back. But according to his lawyer, Andy Hyde, “If he had left, he would have been shunned. If his wife is dead, they pat him on the back.”
Terrifying Texts and Murderous Messages
The book relates that the year she died, Weaver had asked several people to kill his wife. Few took him seriously. However, Barb Raber did and became a very willing accomplish. From May 30 to June 2, 2009, she and Weaver exchanged text messages about methods of murder. Weaver gave suggestions. Blowing up the house. Shooting his wife. Poisons. Raber, who was later found to have made 840 Internet searches related to poisons, texted: “I thought if we could get that fly [poison] stuff in a spice cupcake, she might not detect it.”
A particularly ghastly exchange went like this:
“Maybe you could blow up the house?” Weaver texted Raber.
“What about your kids?” she asked.
“The kids will go to heaven because they’re innocent.”
In the end, Weaver, a hunter and expert marksman decided a gun was the most efficient option. However, he did not put himself behind the trigger. He relied on Raber for that.
Weaver and Raber were arrested and charged with aggravated murder on June 10, 2009.
At the time of her arrest, Raber claimed killing Barbara was an accident. She said she’d took her husband’s shotgun cabinet but didn’t remember loading it.
She recalled that she went to the Weaver house at about 4:30 a.m., with the gun that she thought was unloaded, intent on just scaring Barbara Weaver. She said she got in through an unlocked basement door. She went to the bedroom, where she saw Barbara lying in bed.
Raber said all she wanted to do was scare her — but the gun went off: “I never intended for anything to happen, but when it did, it was, like, ‘Oh crap.’ ”
When asked why Raber did it, according to authorities, she said Eli Weaver had “begged her” to do it and would help her get out of jail, asking if $10,000 was enough.
She later recanted this entire story, and her attorney said that it was Eli who shot Barbara before going on the fishing trip that was his alibi. The murder weapon was never found, and Raber’s prints were not in the house. After her arrest, two 20-gauge shotguns and a .22 rifle were taken from the Raber residence during the execution of a search warrant. But police were looking for a .410 gauge shotgun, which was the size of the pellets that killed Weaver.
At her trial, Larry Miller, of Miller’s Gun Supply, testified that Raber purchased a .410 shotgun from him the prior November. She was convicted of aggravated murder. She is serving 23 years to life.
Weaver cut a deal and was convicted of complicity to commit murder. He is serving 15 years to life. His children are being raised by relatives.
Upon his conviction, Eli Weaver said, I’m very sorry for what I did and, I hope everybody can forgive me for what I did.”
In one of her last letters to her counselor, Barbara Weaver wrote of her husband: “I often think of Christ’s words: ‘Forgive him, for he knows not what he does.’ ”