Eli Weaver: The Amish Stud
When we think of the Amish we typically think of horses and buggies or conservative men and women dressed in traditional, conservative Amish garb. We think of people completely without technology, or even electricity. It truly doesn't get simpler than the Amish way of life. It also doesn't get more beautiful than Amish country. Rolling hills, fields outstretched against the horizon, and modest homes with not a power line in site. One can live an innocent kind of life among the Amish, or at least they should be able to. While it's not uncommon for those of the faith to break rules, one man took the entire Ordnung, the unwritten guidelines for the Amish way of life, and tossed them out the window. Along with it, he also threw out his family, friends, and any chance at a meaningful life.
Eli Weaver was married to Barbra Weaver. Before she met the man that would seal her fate, she was born Barbra Miller. The sweet, caring, forgiving young woman grew up near Orrville, Ohio, a small town of only about 8000. This has also been the home of the J.M. Smucker Company since 1897, the brand famous for their amazing jams, jellies, and ice cream toppings. I would highly advise that you never try their peanut butter, though. Barbra grew up with an older sister and two brothers. Her sister, Fannie and her were very close throughout their lives.
Both Barbra and Fannie attended an Amish school until they reached the eighth grade. At that time the girls were expected to begin helping with chores around the house and the farm. This isn't uncommon at all for Amish children. It's feared that too much education could lead to the demise of the church. Children growing up within these communities are known for being "cheerfully obedient," with boys helping tend to the farms and girls helping out in the kitchen. Families are closer as well, eating their meals together everyday without the distractions that modern technology can bring. Though it was unheard of in Barbra's time, it's much more common today to see Amish teenagers with cell phones or boys driving trucks. This really depends upon the particular group they belong to, as some are stricter than others.
Though they're obedient as children, even the Amish go through a rebellious phase in adolescence. They actually have an entire period that is more or less dedicated to it, known as Rumspringa. In the amazing book, A Killing in Amish Country, Gregg Olsen and Rebecca Morris educate the reader on this period of "running around," as it's also known. These New York Times Bestselling authors describe Rumspringa as a gray area they're caught in as they are not yet baptized into the church and are not technically under the law of the Ordnung. This period can last from the time a person reaches the age of 16 until they're somewhere in their mid-twenties. It's at that time they decide whether or not to be baptized into the church and accept the Ordnung.
While most Amish teenagers spend their Rumspringa years cutting loose and experimenting with drugs and alcohol, Barbra's was quite tame. The years that most spend at parties with the English (what the Amish call people outside of their faith), Barbra spent at slumber parties with her best friend, Ruby Mast. Now married and known as Ruby Hofstetter, back then she was an innocent Amish teen giggling with her friend as they devoured pizza and books. Both girls were veracious readers that loved romance novels depicting Amish girls. Ruby often shared her books with Barbra, including the House of Winslow series by Gilbert Morris. This fictional story follows a family after their arrival on the Mayflower all the way up to the 1940s. The girls also shared some other favorites many here might remember reading, such as Sweet Valley High, the Babysitters Club, and Christian romances written by Lori Wick.
The years that Barbra could've spent "running around" were spent much more wholesomely instead. Gregg Olsen and Rebecca Morris wrote in their bestselling book on the case how Ruby remembered her old friend looking back. She describes the girl she once sat up late with at sleepovers as "very friendly, supernice, not shy, but kind of laid-back." Ruby's mother, Ella Kay Mast, remembers the girls sitting up late and giggling together happily as they played Rook. In the winter they went sledding and ice skating together. It appears that these girls didn't need drugs or alcohol to have a good time. They only needed each other, a good pizza, and a good book.
Ruby's mother considered Barbra a daughter to her. It likely hurt her just as much as Ruby when they left the Amish faith, moved, and lost touch. Ruby's mother divorced her father, something completely inconsiderable in the Amish faith. Ella Kay and her daughter were both shunned. This sounds like exactly what it is. No one can talk to you, look at you, or acknowledge you unless you're in need of help. In that case they quickly help and continue shunning you until a bishop says otherwise. Ella Kay and Ruby left the faith after that and Ruby lost her friend forever. She knew full well that Barbra's parents would never allow their daughter around her again.
Once they entered adulthood and had both married, they began running into each other at Walmart. They never would get close again, though. Ruby had left the Amish and was living among the English now, while Barbra stayed true to her upbringing and accepted the Ordnung, as most Amish do after Rumspringa. According to the statistics published in A Killing in Amish Country, only 10-15% ever decide to leave the faith. Barbra did exactly what everyone knew she would, though. She never strayed from her faith for a second and got baptized as soon as possible.
Though no pictures of her exist aside from those taken at the crime scene, a childhood friend offered a description, calling her "a sweet girl with a round face and hazel eyes." This same friend said that she was a very kind and warm person, calling her "very approachable." Her long hair was probably never trimmed once in her life as Amish women don't believe in cutting their hair. Standing at 5'8" tall and weighing 172 pounds, she appeared to be much more slender. Even when she reached 30 years of age, Barbra still looked as young as she had during her Rumspringa years. Her youthful, sweet appearance and her homemade Amish clothing told of her innocence.
Barbra had known Eli Weaver since they were children. He was known for being an outspoken boy, but he had a likability to him that no one could deny. Somewhere between the ages of 18 and 19, Eli began spending more time with the beautiful young Amish girl he'd known for so long. For a year the couple courted and spent plenty of time together. Barbra truly felt she knew the man she would go on to marry. They enjoyed long buggy rides together as they talked and laughed. Aside from the fact that they couldn't touch each other, it sounds like a very romantic outing. They also attended Sunday evening "singings," social events for single Amish youth to eat dinner, sing, and socialize.
Eli and Barbra were married in 1999 in a traditional Amish ceremony. The day kicked off with a religious service and an exchange of vows at a neighbor's home. Afterward, everyone gathered at the bride's home to enjoy two feasts fully prepared by female relatives, close neighbors, and friends of the happy couple. Barbra's homemade royal-blue wedding dress with a white starched cape and an apron fastened over it was nothing out of the ordinary for an Amish wedding. After the ceremony, she swapped her black Kapp, traditional for single Amish women during formal occasions, for her white Kapp. The white Kapp is only worn by married women. Eli's homemade dark suit and white shirt were also traditional of the occasion.
Barbra was a loving, caring, and forgiving wife. Maybe to a fault. After ten years of marriage and five children, the devoted and devout wife and mother started doubting her marriage. Eli turned out to be a verbally, mentally, emotionally, and financially abusive husband. As though that weren't bad enough, he also took adultery to a whole new level. As strictly as Barbra followed her faith, she actually found herself considering divorce ten years into her marriage to Eli. She was afraid of being shunned for leaving him, though. She'd already seen how a mother and her children could both be shunned for the mother's choice to divorce her husband.
Barbra served the traditional gender role in her family. She stayed at home, raising the children and tending to the home while Eli worked. Though the husband's duty is to provide when the wife takes on the stay-at-home role, Eli decided to keep most of his money for himself. With no more than an eighth grade education, Barbra couldn't have gotten a job even if she'd wanted to. Instead she was reduced to begging her selfish husband for every penny she needed to feed their ever-growing family. Having five children in the span of just seven years, she had plenty to take care of.
The poor wife and mother that was already stretched too thin started finding unpaid bills around the house. When she brought them to the attention of her husband, he seemed not to care in the least. When her day to bake pies for church came around, Barbra begged once again for the money she needed to buy ingredients. He refused and left his wife with no means of producing the pies expected of her. When the day came for her to have her pies ready and at the church, Barbra faced utter humiliation. As dedicated as she had always been to her church, it upset her terribly that she couldn't perform a simple task asked of her because her husband was too inconsiderate to give up any of the family's money. On top of having money withheld from her and being embarrassed at church, Barbra also endured being grabbed and shoved in front of her children. As the Amish don't believe in airing their dirty laundry and letting others in on their problems, Barbra suffered in silence.
Eventually she began confiding things in her sister, Fannie Troyer. By this time Fannie was already married with four children of her own. Barbra told her older sister that Eli had "become forceful" with her during sex. She was also being forced to perform sex acts that were against her faith and made her horribly uncomfortable. When he wasn't making her life a living hell in other ways, he was verbally abusing her in front of their children as well. The ever-doting and obedient wife took it in such stride that the children mostly thought that they were joking around.
Though Barbra confessed to her sister that Eli never hurt the children, he also showed no interest in them either. The mostly absent father spent more time on overnight fishing and hunting trips than at home with his family. When he was home, he rarely bothered himself with the task of playing with them. He hardly ever ate meals with his family, either. This is very strange in Amish culture as families always eat all of their meals together. As Barbra and other members of the Andy Weaver Amish group they belonged to would find out, Eli wasn't spending nearly as much time fishing and hunting as he claimed.
Though Eli had grown his beard out as Amish husbands traditionally do, he was anything but a husband or father. He may have looked the part, but it was no more than a mask. In 2006, his facade fell and he left his family and the Amish. He shaved off his beard, cut his hair, and abandoned his homemade, traditional Amish clothing. He abandoned everything he should've held dear to live among the English.
Not long after he embarked on his self-centered journey, Eli met a woman named Shelley Casey. The two met at a beagle hunt, where beagles hunt down rabbits for sport. Shelley was quickly drawn to the charismatic charm of the newly English Amish man. She remembered him being clean shaven, with short hair, wearing a T-shirt, and blue jeans when she first laid eyes on him. He talked her up and managed to get her number. Just a week or two later, he texted her. They started going to beagle hunts together, just enjoying each other's company. It didn't take long for the relationship to turn sexual.
Once Eli began having sex with his new girlfriend, he moved in with her and her parents at their home. It was there he remained through the summer of 2006. There seemed to be issues in the relationship from the very beginning. For starters, Eli had no job and was living on top of Shelley and her parents. He also seemed to feel guilty about leaving his kids, but this was likely just feigned. Another clear issue presents itself quite plainly when you look at letters Shelley wrote to Eli in comparison to the way he treated her. It's quite obvious that Shelley felt much more for him than he ever felt for her. Likely, she was just someone to help save him from his Amish life.
In some of her letters expressing love for him, Shelley also encouraged Eli to see his children. She told him that staying away would only make things worse. For reasons known only to Eli, he returned home to his family after Shelley's encouragement to visit with his children. The stay was short lived, though. He left again, returning to Shelley and her parents' house just two weeks later. In a letter she wrote to him upon his return it can be seen that she read much further into his move back than she should've. The resourceful authors of A Killing in Amish Country managed to get a hold of some of her letters, among letters from others in this case. She wrote to him, "You showed me that you do love me, like I love you."
In other letters she wrote to him after he returned, she expresses the desire to map her entire life out around his. She states in one that if she could find out what job he would be getting she would move her schedule around to match his. He ended up finding work as a trucker, but the job and his return to English life were as short lived as his first return home. He left Shelley for good this time in August 2006, to go back to his family once again. Shelley wouldn't hear from Eli again for three years. When he did contact her, she hardly knew the man reaching out to her.
I'm sure that Eli implemented all of the tactics of a typical abuser to weasel his way back into the home. He also played an Oscar-winning performance when he approached the bishops of the church. He seemed to be truly sorry for the pain and suffering he'd caused in his absence. Though he was shunned, he was allowed to return home to his family. One thing in particular was asked of him by the bishops. They ordered him not to see a specific Mennonite woman that had been known to drive him around. The Andy Weaver Amish may not drive or own vehicles, but they can ride in one. Many of them have taxi drivers, and Eli's was a Mennonite woman named Barb Raber.
While Eli had been gone on his second excursion with the English, Barbra was growing lonely on her own with only her four children for company. She longed to be closer to her sister, Fannie. Friends, family, and neighbors of Barbra scraped together $6000 to help her move out of the residence beside Eli's parents in Millersburg. She packed the home up and took her children 15 miles north to the beautiful slice of America known as Apple Creek Township, Ohio.
While Eli and Barbra lived in Millerburg they had grown quite dependent on Eli's parents. There's no real surprise there as Eli Weaver seems to have been an incompetent husband and father. When he came back home things went back to the status quo for him. His father bought him a house in Apple Creek with an adjoining store for him to run. The family moved back in together and Eli opened up Maysville Outfitters, an outdoor sporting goods store. It was around this time that Barbra asked Fannie to take her children briefly while she and Eli worked through some issues. As the store took off and started gaining customers from other communities, Eli allowed his relationship with his wife to fall by the wayside again.
Barbra was hopeful about the future after her husband came back and the store opened. She felt that a fresh start could really help with the problems they'd been having. Now they were living in a new town farther from Eli's parents. He had a business of his own that he could make some real money at. Best of all, he really seemed to be sorry for what he'd done. He seemed like he was trying to repent. Little did they know, it was all an act.
Word about Maysville Outfitters was reaching customers from the surrounding areas. His shop was buzzing with interested buyers milling around his selection of hunting rifles, crossbows, and fishing reels. Along with his ever-expending customer base came more and more exposure to the English. It wasn't only English men shopping for hunting and fishing equipment in the small Ohio town. There were also many avid female hunters and fishermen, or more appropriately, fisher-women.
Though Eli was shunned for a time, he did manage to crawl out from under that shame. He even made some friends in town despite the low opinions many had of his flitting back and forth between worlds. One of his friends would later say that most in the area "were of two minds about his move." While everyone was happy to see the young family reunite, most community members also didn't want him as their neighbor, either. While he did make friends within his church, Eli also made friends with a Mennonite man named Steve Chupp, that had formally been Amish himself. It was Steve that convinced him to get a cell phone for his business. The store did have a phone shanty outside, but that was all his church would allow. If Eli had a cell phone it would be much easier for him to do business with Steve.
When Eli did acquire his phone he made sure that Steve knew to only text. Never call. Steve didn't think anything of it as he had lived the same Amish lifestyle himself for many years before "jumping the fence." According to Gregg Olsen and Rebecca Morris, this is what the Amish call it when you switch groups or convert to the Mennonite faith. It would turn out that it wasn't only the phone he wanted to conceal. He also wanted to keep everything on it to himself as well.
While Eli was planning to do some business with Steve, his private cell phone was being used for more. He established a profile on a free social network for mobile phones called MocoSpace. Online he was known as Amish Stud. For a short time anyway. Whether it was an attack of self-consciousness or the realization that it was a stupid name to start with, Eli changed it soon after. From then on out, he would be Amish Guy. It was found later on that the two profiles briefly overlapped one another, with Eli using both at once. It's likely he was just casting his net a little wider.
Knowing what he would go on to do, reading his profile almost makes your skin crawl. The brilliant authors of A Killing in Amish Country published the subject line he used, "Who wants 2 do an Amish guy!" The rest of his profile was the typical kind of garbage one can find on any given profile on any given dating app. "Love hunting, fishing, anything outdoors. I want friends and if u have what it takes u can be my friend." His profile picture was nothing more than a shot of him from chest to briefs. Once again, typical for any dating app. The book on this case refers to his muscled arms and chiseled abs, but the picture they included from his profile wasn't that impressive.
Nevertheless, the charming Amish Guy went on to amass 141 online friends, all of them female. Such names as, 2_much_ass, 69smileygirl, blackbarbiefisheye143, naughtylittlesexysexslave, and tweetybirdfan could be found on his buddy list. Eli met and had encounters with many women right inside of his own store. As he hid his cell phone and charged it in his barn, texted with women in his basement, and had secret rendezvous in his place of business, it would seem as though he were dying to get caught.
All of his relationships were different. Some women he only texted with, and never met. Some women he had middle school kind of relationships with, merely kissing and holding hands with them. Others he went much farther with. He'd go out on dates and have sex with those women. He'd make them each feel so special. As though they were the only one that could ever make him happy. They were not.
There was one woman that he never formed any kind of romantic relationship with. When Tabitha Milton first met Eli it was on Lavalife, "Where Singles Click." The single mother of three worked full-time and didn't have much time to meet men. Though her days were filled with work and caring for her children, the nights were lonely after the kids went to bed. She made her profile and began looking for someone to chat with. Maybe just talking to turn to something more.
She met Eli and found Lavelife's slogan was right on the money. They clicked instantly. The two would flirt and spend their evenings sexting. She figured from his picture that he must be Amish, but she couldn't be sure. After a while, she just asked him. He told her that he was. Tabitha asked if he was even allowed to have a cell phone, to which he said no. Eli explained that he kept it hidden away in his barn, where he also charged it.
As the two continued to talk online, Eli told her about his business. She asked him if he'd considered building a website to expand his customer base. He had not. Tabitha asked if he would possibly allow her to help him build one. He said yes and they made plans to meet at his store for the first time. Tabitha excitedly drove to Apple Creek, ready to meet the man that had enamored her for weeks. When she arrived, she learned that he was married and had children. Though she remained friends with him and agreed to help him with his website, she declined any kind of romantic or sexual relationship with a married man.
Tabitha and Eli never had sex, but they ended up becoming the best of friends. Now Eli had someone he could vent his frustrations to that really listened to him. He would unload on her about his wife and how unhappy he was in his marriage. His wife wouldn't fulfill his sexual desires. She was demanding of him to live right and be a good husband and father. She was cold and uncaring. He conveniently left out the parts where he was forcing his sexual desires on her and that he was the cold, unfeeling bastard in the relationship.
Tabitha listened to her friend and tried to offer suggestions to help his made-up situation. She of course suggested that he divorce Barbra if he was so unhappy. Eli said that wouldn't be possible as divorce is against the Amish faith. She tried reminding him that he'd left his family and the church before. Why not just do it again if he was truly so miserable in his life? He was worried about losing his house and business. Not his children, his house and his business. Tabitha said he could just start over, but he referred to his lack of an education.
This was something that came up regularly with Tabitha. Any time she suggested anything he referred her to his unfinished education. She noticed that he seemed really down on his own intelligence. The sweet, helpful young friend offered to help him get his GED. She said that he seemed to brighten up a bit to that. It was as though he saw a glimmer of hope for his future through education. Later, Tabitha would begin to wonder if his naivety was nothing more than an act.
During their friendship, the two spent plenty of time together talking, watching TV, and just hanging out. Eli would even join Tabitha and her children for pizza sometimes. It's worth noting that he seemed to have no trouble being around Tabitha's children while he had to be begged to spend time with his own. Eli also divulged personal details about his marriage and himself. On one occasion he even told his friend that he'd never gone down on a woman before.
Their friendship wasn't only hanging out while Eli complained. He also helped Tabitha out when she reached a tough point in her life. The single young mother lost her job, making it difficult to pay her bills. Eli came to the rescue, giving her a phone, paying the bill, and also giving her the laptop he'd bought for his store's website. He told her to practice what she'd been preaching to him about education. She should go back to school to get a better job. When her car payment came due and there was no money to pay it, Eli covered that, too. He even took in her mother's beagle when the woman was unable to continue caring for it.
Tabitha really thought the world of Eli. She would've never believed him to be capable of harming a fly. She was aware he was unhappy at home, but there was so much more that she didn't know about her new best friend. For one, she had no idea where her cell phone payments were really coming from. While she thought that Eli had bought her phone and was paying the bill himself, he was not. Eli was on his taxi driver, Barb Raber's friends and family plan at Verizon Wireless. Tabitha had become the third member added to the plan that Barb was paying for. Eli happily took credit for helping the struggling young mother out of her bind, though.
One relationship went about as far as one can go before Eli backed off. He met Misty Stevens online and the two began talking over the phone. For two months, Misty had no idea that he was married. When she finally asked, he told her shamelessly that he was married and he had four children, too. What he left out was the fact that Barbra was pregnant with their fifth child at the time. Misty continued to see him regardless, picking him up from his house or store at 3:30-4:00AM. While Barbra was convinced he was out on hunting and fishing trips, he was actually going to a motel with Misty. Afterward, they would go out to eat.
For a short time, Eli made Misty feel as one of a kind as he made all of his girlfriends feel. He even made comments to her that if something should "happen" to his wife, that he'd leave the Amish faith to be with her. She thought the comment was odd, but read no further into it. In November 2007, just two months into their sexual relationship, Misty discovered she was pregnant. Not surprisingly, Eli made himself scarce.
He started making all sorts of excuses about needing to sell his store and move away. The romantic relationship ended there, with Misty left to raise a daughter alone while Eli returned to his dating profile. It became painfully obvious that he wasn't leaving his family for her. She ended the relationship herself, telling him she could no longer be involved with a married man. She gave birth to her little girl in July 2008, and Eli never once laid eyes on her. Each month he would send a $350 check from the store's bank account as a sort of unofficial child support. She received the final check she would ever get from Eli in the last week of May 2009.
Eli got involved in one of his most serious relationships in April 2008, when he met Cherie Lindstrom on MocoSpace. Cherie was in her twenties at the time, working full-time and supporting a daughter on her own. This seemed to be Eli's type, young, lonely, single mothers. Much like Tabitha when she met Eli, Cherie felt isolated at night after putting her daughter to bed. She was all alone with no one else to talk to. She created her profile, looking for some companionship to ease her loneliness.
Cherie was living in Canton, Ohio. She had a nice area and home to raise her daughter in. She also had all the support she could possibly need, with family to help out. The only thing she needed was someone to help fill the long nights after her daughter fell asleep. She felt that she found that in Eli.
When she met him it was under the name Amish Stud. Having been around the Amish all her life while her great-grandfather was a live-stock dealer, Cherie had always been curious about and fascinated with the Amish. Much like many women that live around Amish communities, she romanticized their innocent nature. She'd met many Amish men throughout her childhood, traveling with her great-grandfather to make sales in their communities, but she'd never encountered one on the internet before. She was instantly intrigued.
The two spent the next few weeks after meeting online texting back and forth. Eli would hide in his basement late into the night to talk to his newest interest. When the two first met in person, it was as friends. Cherie brought her daughter to the shop and Eli gave the little girl a fishing pole. Cherie would begin visiting the shop regularly, even pulling up a chair and a small table by the door to sit down while she talked to Eli. Later, she would wonder about what the others in his community thought of her visits. She conceded that it "probably wasn't good," according to A Killing in Amish Country.
For a while that's how their relationship stayed, a friendship. Just like with Tabitha, he would vent his frustrations about his wife, marriage, and how unhappy he was with the Amish to Cherie. She seemed just as happy as Tabitha had to sit and listen to him unload everything that vexed him. He talked about how miserable he was under the "iron-fisted" rule of his brother, who was a minister in the church. He spoke of how he truly hated the Amish and everything they expected him to do and be. He also complained plenty about Barbra and how cold she could be. There were of course more than enough complaints on his unfulfilled sexual desires.
It wasn't all whining and grumbling, though. Cherie would remember her time with Eli as being filled with laughter and good times. When they began making phone calls to each other, they spoke often about hunting, fishing, and all of the other outdoor activities they both enjoyed. He would amuse her with the local gossip floating among the Amish and the dumb things he thought that they did. Cherie came to find out that though the Amish don't speak about their own affairs at all, they certainly talk plenty about others. His charm and humor eventually won her over. Their friendship turned romantic. Soon after their romantic relationship turned sexual.
Cherie was fully aware that Eli was married and that he had five children. She reminded herself that the marriage wasn't a happy one and that Barbra wasn't fulfilling his needs. The very first time they had sex it was inside of Maysville Outfitters. Eli locked the door and the two ducked behind the counter. This would be the place where they had many of their trysts. On one of these occasions, Eli forgot to lock the door as he was embroiled in forbidden passion. Another member of their Andy Weaver Amish community walked in on them and caught them in the act. Without a word, the man left the shop and went straight to the bishops.
Eli was chastised for his indiscretion. Surprisingly, no further punishment ever came to him for the transgression. He received a lot of sideways glances in town, but continued to see Cherie. On her days off from work, she would pick Eli up and take him back to her house. There, the two would spend the entire day having sex. As oral sex was what Eli so craved from Barbra, that's what Cherie gave him. He would satisfy her as well, and then the two would lay in bed, talking. They would spend hours talking about Cherie's childhood and her daughter.
They told each other that they were in love. Clearly, Cherie was the only one that was really in love. Eli Weaver is incapable of loving anyone but himself. She was aware that he wasn't going to leave his family and his life behind to be with her. Unlike many women in her position, she had no dilutions about a happily-ever-after with the married man she'd been sleeping with.
It was fun for a while. The two went hiking, which were just excursions into the privacy of the wilderness to have sex. Eli even tried to teach Cherie to speak Dutch. He made jokes sometimes, just making him all the more personable. Though she never tried or planned to, Cherie found herself falling in love with the Amish Stud. Even as her feelings intensified, she still knew that there would be no future with him. He wasn't leaving his family, no matter how many times he said he would.
As time went on, it started to become less fun. Eli wanted more and more of her time and attention. It was all just so that he could complain about Barbra. At first it kind of began to make Cherie feel uncomfortable. Then, after a while it started getting on her nerves. All he did was whine about his life and his marriage, but he never did anything about it. Cherie had even tried to help him find work so he could feel free to leave with something to fall back on. She set up interviews with the kinds of outdoor sporting goods stores he wanted to work at, but he never showed up to them.
One day, the two of them went on a hike to one of their favorite places to go together, the Wilderness Center. It's a nature preserve near Wilmot featuring 10 miles of hiking trails winding through the picturesque forest, prairie, lakes, and ponds throughout the area. Though the day had started nicely enough, it didn't end that way. Usually their hikes were enjoyable, with the two holding hands, talking, having sex, and even on one occasion, dancing in the rain. However, this excursion would end with the two of them not speaking to each other for a brief period of time.
They were well into a pleasant walk on the trail when Eli said it for the millionth time. He was going to leave his wife and children. This was it. He was really going to do it. Cherie just shrugged it off, saying, "Sure, Eli. You always say that." He swore that he really meant it, but she was just tired of hearing the same old crap on repeat. Instead of helping him, instead of encouraging him, she told him that he should just stay with his family and make things work. She'd told him this before, but this time she was much more insistent.
At this, Eli began his usual moaning. He was bored. He didn't like the control his church had over him. He wanted out and away from the Amish. He wanted a different job. As though the rest of it weren't annoying enough, his comment about wanting another job sent Cherie over the edge. She'd tried helping him find work so he could leave home. All she'd managed to do was make herself look bad to people in positions to hire.
She'd had enough of listening to all of his problems. She snapped and called him out. As Eli dropped his gaze to the ground, Cherie tore into him over every time she'd gone out of her way to get him numbers and interviews. He never went to a single interview or followed up with a single manager. According to A Killing in Amish Country, Cherie was quite blunt when she told him, "I don't have time to feel sorry for you, Eli. Deal with this. This is the life you chose when you were baptized. Why did you get baptized in the first place if you didn't want to be Amish?"
Eli, still looking to the ground like a scolded child, went to his default excuse. It's what was expected of him. The single mother reminded him that she had things expected of her as well. That's just life. We all have things expected of us.
After this blowout the two went their separate ways. For the next two weeks they didn't talk to each other. This wasn't the first time they'd reached this point. This time, Cherie was much more irritated with Eli's selfish nature. This guy acted like it was everyone else's job to save him. Cherie was just about through with trying.
In two weeks, Eli did what he always did when Cherie was mad at him. He would either send sweet texts or just simply a smiley face that would reignite the flame again. It was no different this time, except for Cherie's thinning patience. Eli's charm and charisma was wearing thin. The ugly, inconsiderate man behind the mask was beginning to show his face. Eventually, Cherie would realize the truth behind his kindness and passion. He was only looking for someone to take him away from his Amish life. Like in some kind of romance novel, Eli thought he was the damsel in distress to be saved from his evil oppressors.
The last of Eli's girlfriends mentioned in A Killing in Amish Country was his taxi driver, Barbra Raber, known by all as Barb. For a total of six years, Barb drove Eli and his friends on fishing and hunting trips, provided him and Tabitha Milton with cell phones, and did whatever other bidding Eli asked of her. Up to and including having sex with him whenever he wanted and performing oral sex on him as well. Eli wasn't a terrible-looking guy and the women he typically slept with were also young and quite attractive. Barb Raber was a different story, though. At 39-years-old, she was ten years older than Eli's 29 years. Her graying brown hair, large-framed glasses, and small figure made her appear older than her age.
Before the Mennonite woman became known throughout Apple Creek Township as the "taxi lady," she was known for coming from pure tragedy. At just six months old, Barb was adopted by a sweet couple that belonged to the New Order Amish. She was the second daughter of three to be adopted by Katie and Menno Miller after the multiple tragedies suffered by the two.
When Katie and Menno married in Sugarcreek, Ohio in May 1958, they held high hopes for a big family. Exactly nine months after their union, Katie checked in Union Hospital in Dover. On February 16, 1959, their first son, Michael Allen Miller was born. Weighing seven pounds and seven ounces, the boy they nicknamed Mickie appeared to be perfectly healthy. It didn't take long for Katie to start worrying about the baby's health. She was beginning to wonder as time went on if he son was developmentally disabled. At five months of age, Mickie couldn't even hold his head up yet. He also wasn't responding to Katie or any of her attempts to interact or play with him.
After taking him to different doctors with different opinions, the final consensus was that Mickie was intellectually disabled. Katie and Menno understood that their son would need extra attention and care. Friends and family were there to aid in their struggle and life continued. Their new normal seemed manageable enough for a time.
Then, the couple welcomed their second son, Timothy Ray Miller. Timmie, as he was known, caused his mother to worry even sooner than his older brother had. At just three weeks old, the baby was crying and spitting up inordinately. After her first go-around with Mickie, Katie quickly began wondering if Timmie was suffering the same disability as his brother. She followed her mother's intuition all the way back to the doctor's office. Katie's worst fears were confirmed. Timmie was indeed suffering from the same intellectual disability that Mickie was. The poor couple's burden doubled, but they took it in stride and trudged forward.
The doctor's bills were expensive, but friends and family within the church helped with the cost. Caring for the boys was stressful at times, but everyone was there to babysit when the couple needed a break. They had been encouraged to bring the boys to church, too. Katie and Menno couldn't have asked for a better support system than they had. The community was there every step of the way to help with any and everything they needed.
The couple finally heard about a clinic in Denver that claimed to be able to "cure" developmentally disabled children. As this was somewhere between the late 50s and early 60s, little was known about these kinds of disabilities. The Millers were desperate enough to place their hopes in this clinic. Members of the church helped to gather the money they needed to travel there with the boys. Once there, they discovered that they would have to leave the children there for three months of treatment. Though it broke their hearts to do so, they left them in the doctor's care.
When they returned three months later to retrieve the boys, Timmie had shown improvement while Mickie had not. Mickie was pale and had obviously lost weight during his stay. They were advised to continue working with a chiropractor as these are the kinds of doctors favored by the Amish. They tried for a while, but Mickie still showed no improvement. Katie and Menno decided to end all treatments.
While some might have been known about inherited problems and chromosomal abnormalities back then, breakthroughs in genetic testing were still another 15 years away. Still, the Millers could have been warned about the risks of having more children. They were not. As a result they continued trying, hoping that the next baby would be okay. By the time their third son, Rudy Jay, was born on August 2, 1961, Katie knew exactly what to look for in determining an intellectual disability in her children.
Doctors told her not to worry. They said that Rudy was just fine. Katie knew better, though. He was a fussy, colicky baby that cried often. Then, at just six weeks old, Rudy's entire body began to swell. Doctors could only say that it was something serious, but they couldn't say what. Rudy was sent to a hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
The doctor there was only able to offer the same explanation. He had a serious disease of some sort, but they had no idea what it was. He promised that they would do everything they could, but there really wasn't anything they could do to help him. They couldn't even be sure if the disease was fatal or not. Katie placed her fears and anxieties into the hands of God. She prayed as hard as she could for the Lord to end her baby's suffering. Several weeks later, she received an answer to her prayers, but not the one she wanted. Rudy Jay Miller passed away.
Katie and Menno were devastated, but they still had two boys with special needs that needed them. The unbreakable couple soldiered through, ensuring all of their children's needs were met. It wasn't easy as both boys were prone to pneumonia and were often sick. Certain foods also didn't seem to agree with them. Katie had to be very careful of what she fed her sons.
As Mickie neared his third birthday, the tops of feet began to swell. He also started swelling up around his eyes. He was taken to the doctor to find that he had the same illness that took his youngest brother. The doctors understood no more of the strange illness than they had when Rudy had it. Unable to help the little boy, Mickie ended up passing away when he was just 5-years-old.
Not long after losing his older brother, Timmie began getting weaker. His parents took him to John Hopkins in Baltimore in October 1964. For the first time, the Millers were seeking answers about this strange illness, rather than just treatment. Specialists were dumbfounded, but they had an idea. The symptoms seemed to point to an inherited condition known as PKU, or phenylketonuria. This is a condition were the body cannot break down an amino acid called phenylalanine. When this acid builds up in the blood it can cause a host of medical problems, such as seizures, intellectual disabilities, skin rashes, and swelling. The children had apparently been tested for PKU at John Hopkins and none of them tested positive for it.
Through their search for answers, they were still never warned of the likelihood that they were passing the condition down genetically. In their unshakable hope, they tried once again to have a baby. They hoped and prayed that the next one would be healthy and spared the difficulties faced by their other sons. In August 1965, Katie gave birth to Matthew. Within just weeks of his birth he started experiencing convulsions.
Doctors had differing opinions. One said that Matthew wasn't developmentally disabled. One said that he was. As they scrambled for answers, Matthew didn't seem to get any better. Even worse, Timmie was declining as well. As hard as the Millers fought for their sons, they ended up losing the battle each time. Timmie passed away at age 7 and Matthew passed at only 4-years-old.
Katie and Menno Miller weren't fortunate enough to live in an era with the kind of technology and genetic testing we have available today. Now, a blood test is performed at the OBGYN's office very early in pregnancy. These tests search for all kinds of developmental, intellectual, and genetic disabilities. A lot can be learned from a simple blood test in the early stages of pregnancy today. Had such tests been available in Katie Miller's time, she would've learned before her children were even born that they likely suffered from a rare genetic condition. This condition is known as an inborn error of metabolism. Low-protein diets would've been recommended for the boys and they could've been candidates for liver transplant depending upon the specific diagnoses.
Shortly before the grieving couple lost Matthew, their last surviving son by that point, they adopted a baby girl. Katie had figured it out on her own by then. The boys were inheriting whatever was wrong with them. Over the next five years after losing Matthew, they adopted two more little girls. Barb Raber was one of these little girls. She would be listed in Amish records as the middle one.
Though the Millers were grieving beyond comprehension, they would still strive to make a nice home for their adopted daughters. They were strict and protective parents, but no one could really blame them. As normally as they tried to raise the girls, Barb and her adoptive sisters were still growing up in the long shadow cast by everything Katie and Menno had lost. The ghosts of those poor boys hung heavily over the home, and they could be felt in every decision made by the strict parents.
If the oldest and first daughter the couple adopted was a dream, then Barb and her younger sister were nightmares. Their oldest girl was obedient, caring, happy, and well-adjusted. The youngest girl was disobedient and known for getting into some trouble. Barb seemed to be the bigger issue for the couple, though. The tall tales she was known for telling could grow quite tiresome.
As Barb grew up she craved freedom. Living among the New Order Amish, this was something she could never get quite close enough to. Likely, Barb anticipated Rumspringa greatly so she could finally taste the freedom her mouth watered for. At the age of 22, she "jumped the fence" to the Conservative Mennonite faith after meeting her husband, Ed Raber. The two had three sons together and built their lives within a very cluttered home on Township Road 310 in Millersburg.
For a woman of the Conservative Mennonite faith, Barb was known for being rather foul-mouthed. She'd met Eli Weaver as his taxi driver, but became so much more than that. What she became was utterly devoted to and completely manipulated by the man she thought was only screwing her on the side. She became so blinded by his charm and his looks that she turned to putty in hands. He could mold her any way he wanted and make her do anything he wanted her to do.
As Eli continued to run around on his wife with multiple women, Barbra was growing more suspicious at home. Eli repeatedly left her heartbroken only to return looking for forgiveness later. He always promised to never hurt her again. He could do better. He would do better. Eli was just implementing the typical tactics of an abuser. As abusers always do, he remained apologetic for a time before returning to his ways.
It's not like Barbra was completely in the dark. She was well aware that her husband had been caught having sex with a woman in his shop. Eli even threw his dalliances up in her face, telling her on one occasion that he could have 50 girlfriends if he wanted. Feeling beaten down after all she'd been through, Barbra went looking for help. She found it in her counselor, Duane Troyer. Duane worked for Hoffnung Heim, a Christian counseling practice with a special focus on Amish and Mennonite communities. It was Barbra's hope that her new counselor could help her make sense of everything and how to fix it.
Early every morning Barbra had a routine she stuck to. After sending her husband off to work like the dutiful little wife, she would get out her paper and pen. In the time she had to herself between Eli going to work and the children getting up out of bed, Barbra would comfort herself by writing to her counselor. She disclosed everything that she had been forced to endure in ten years. His verbal, financial, sexual, physical, and psychological abuse of her. Barbra told Duane everything, no matter how embarrassing, in hopes that she could fix her marriage. Duane would mail his replies to Fannie's house so Eli didn't find out she was talking to someone. Barbra was afraid of how her husband would react to knowing she'd told a stranger everything about them.
Barbra confided the kinds of things she would typically only confide in her sister. After a while, she wasn't only writing to her counselor every spare moment she got to herself. She also started documenting Eli's behavior in journals she had hidden around the house. She wrote it all down. When he came home, when he left, when he ate with the family, went to work, or went for other outings. She also documented his stories as to where he was going or where he'd been, and the way he behaved at home, too. The down-trodden young wife and mother just knew that her husband was being unfaithful once again. While the date of her last journal entry isn't known, the last letter she ever sent to Duane Troyer was postmarked May 15, 2009.
The evening of June 1, 2009, seemed like any other in the sleepy little Ohio town. As the Weaver children are referred to by pseudonyms to protect their privacy in the book, A Killing in Amish Country, I will stick to the names chosen for them by the authors. I had no desire to look up the names of these kids as they have been through enough. The oldest of the Weaver children, 9-year-old Harley, had a birthday party at his Aunt Fannie's house the day prior. There, he happily played the day away with his siblings and cousins.
As the eventful birthday wound down to a close, Barbra got her children ready to go home. One of her boys, Jacob, decided to stay with his aunt and uncle. Two of Fannie's daughters, Susie and Mary, opted to go to Barbra's house with the rest of the Weaver children, Harley, Sarah, Joseph, and Lizzie. Barbra happily took her sweet, young nieces with her for a quiet couple of nights at home. The kids seemed to be losing steam after two days of play, and the younger ones were beginning to fall asleep in Barbra's bed by the night of June 1. The caring mother reminded the older ones to be quiet so not to disturb the younger children as they slept.
As the night wore on a terrible storm was also brewing in Apple Creek. High winds were accompanied by thunder, lightning, and heavy rains. Barbra rocked her youngest, 2-year-old Lizzie, in her bedroom before taking her into her own room. Barbra and Lizzie's bedrooms were both located on the main floor, while the rest of the children's rooms were upstairs. Susie laid down on the living room couch when she was finally ready to let sleep overtake her. Harley wasn't far off, curling up in his father's recliner just on the other side of his mother's bedroom wall. The night seemed to be quiet, with Harley only waking up once when he heard a loud thunder clap. Sarah, Mary, and Joseph remember someone, possibly Eli, carrying them upstairs in the middle of the night.
The house came back to life at around 8:00 the next morning. For Barbra, it was awfully late to still be in bed, but her niece, Susie, figured she must not be feeling well. The cheerfully helpful little girl began tending to the younger children as they woke up. She didn't mind. Susie loved helping with the younger kids. She was doing a great job on her own until Lizzie started crying and Mary began asking about breakfast. Feeling a little in over her head, Susie went to get her Aunt Barbra.
As she wandered down the hallway of the main floor, Susie could hear some of the younger children screaming from inside Barbra's room. She followed the sound, not sure what she would find. When she pushed her aunt's door open she immediately knew something was wrong. The younger children were clutching Barbra's comforter as they cried hysterically. Susie could see that Barbra was still and her comforter was stained red. Not knowing what else to do, she ran from the room to get her older cousin, Harley. She called out to him in the Pennsylvania Dutch that all Amish children learn to speak before learning English.
Harley leaped from his spot on the recliner and ran to mother's bedside. He saw the younger kids ominously gathered around her. The young boy approached his mother and reached out to feel her leg. It was cold. Though Susie saw the red stain and thought Barbra had thrown up blood in the night, Harley had a darker thought. He thought that his mother had been shot. Harley had been raised around guns. His father and many other men in the area were avid hunters. But he hadn't heard any gunfire in the night, had he?
As the other kids tried to make sense of what was happening, Harley jumped into action. As quickly as he could possibly move, he dressed and put his shoes on before running out the door. He didn't stop until he reached the neighbor's house across the street, Firman and Linda Yoder. Upon answering the door, the first words Linda Yoder could recall hearing Harley say was "My mom's dead." He then explained how his cousin, Susie, had found his mother and couldn't rouse her, prompting Susie to get him. He told his neighbor that when he entered his mother's bedroom, he found blood on her nightie and felt that her leg was cold.
While Linda may not have thought much of Eli, she was fond of Barbra. Hearing that her friend from across the street might be hurt, she rushed to put her shoes on and help. Linda followed the boy that was quickly proving to be more of a man than his father. When she walked into her friend's bedroom, Linda witnessed a sight that would etch itself into her mind for an eternity. After seeing Barbra lying cold and lifeless in her bed, looking as though she were just sleeping, Linda ran from the house for help. She didn't even stop to knock on Katie Petersheim's door. Running inside, Linda exclaimed that Barbra wasn't responding and she wished she hadn't pulled that cover back.
While Linda called for help, Katie ran to get another neighbor, Amanda Troyer. Firman gathered the children and corralled them over to his and Linda's house. The book published about this case states that in the middle of the commotion, Harley could be heard saying, "If this was Dad, then he's had it!" Little Sarah, only 6-years-old at the time, was witnessed running around asking repeatedly where her mother was. A Mennonite neighbor would later state that upon seeing the commotion taking place around the Weaver home they immediately thought that Eli had done something to Barbra.
Phillip Chupp, assistant fire chief and paramedic for the Fredricksburg Fire Department, arrived and asked Linda Yoder what the problem seemed to be. Without a word, she led him into Barbra's bedroom. He was unable to find a pulse and noted the bullet hole in the covers with a blackened edge left around it. When he pulled her nightie down just a few inches he found a gunshot wound to the right side of her chest. With the use of a heart monitor, Phillip confirmed what he already knew to be the truth. Barbra Weaver was pronounced dead at 9:30AM on June 2, 2009. Though Phillip and the authorities all knew what had caused Barbra's death, the medical examiner would still need to confirm the cause through an autopsy.
As the ambulance had rushed through the country roads, lights flashing and sirens blaring, they caught the attention of a buggy passing by. It was Fannie Troyer driving the buggy loaded with children to her sister's home. She had innocently planned to take Jacob back to his mother and retrieve her two daughters, Susie and Mary. The plan for the day had been for the sisters to spend it together while their children played outside. When the ambulance sped past, Fannie was rightfully confused. Why was an ambulance driving so fast in the direction of Barbra's house? She continued on her way only to be stopped when she tried to pull her buggy into her sister's driveway. She was told that Barbra was found dead in her bed that morning.
According to Gregg Olsen and Rebecca Morris' coverage of this case, Fannie only had two thoughts when she heard the news. "Where are the children?" and "Where is Eli?" She pulled her buggy into a neighbor's barn and quickly found the children with the Yoders. She never entered her sister's house or saw her body. Fannie stayed with her children, nieces, and nephews at Linda and Firman's home until police arrived.
Once Phillip saw the gunshot wound to Barbra's chest, he called the Wayne County Sheriff's Department. Deputy Thomas Holmes was the first to arrive and joined Phillip in the bedroom to asses the scene. Once Sergeant Ryan Koster arrived, everyone was cleared from the scene, including paramedics. The home was secured and declared a crime scene as the detectives and the coroner's office were called in. In the meantime, witness statements were taken. Just in these brief statements at the dawn of the investigation much was gleaned about Eli and his extracurricular activities.
Linda's statement revealed that she worked for Eli in his store from time to time. But her relationship with him wasn't like his other relationships with women. Her's was a strictly working relationship, with her opinions of him very low. Though Linda thought the world of Barbra, she didn't think much of the man that openly ran around on his wife and flitted back and forth between the Amish faith and the English world. The last time Linda had seen Barbra was the night before her body was discovered at 8:00. She was closing the shop for Eli while he was on a fishing trip and spotted Barbra on her front porch as she was turning the open sign over to closed. She said she had not heard any gunshots ring out in the night.
Firman told police that he was working that night until about 11:00. He noticed lights on at the Weaver residence when he arrived home. He thought it to be slightly odd, but figured that Eli must be up late preparing for his fishing trip to Lake Erie scheduled for that very day. As his wife had closed Eli's shop for him to go fishing at the Berlin Reservoir the previous day, he thought Eli may have gotten in late. If he didn't arrive home until late, it would stand to reason that he would need to prepare for an early fishing trip rather late at night.
When Detectives Michael Maxwell and John Chuhi made it to the residence, paramedics were still on the scene as deputies took witness statements from all of the neighbors. The men were briefed by Sergeant Koster as they were led into the bedroom of 30-year-old Barbra Weaver. Coroner's assistant Luke Reynolds joined them when he arrived soon after. The only pictures ever taken of Barbra were taken there at the crime scene by Detective Maxwell. The sweet, young Amish mother that would've lent a helping hand to anyone that needed it looked as though she were merely sleeping in her bed. Head laid upon her pillow, tucked snug under her comforter, the only hint that something was amiss was the bullet hole, blood stain, and the hue of her lips.
As detectives searched the home, they didn't realize that some of the amenities featured at the Weaver residence weren't allowed within the Andy Weaver sect of the Amish. Gas lighting installed in the ceilings and patterned linoleum floors weren't traditional, or even allowed in homes of Andy Weaver members. These were features inside Barbra and Eli's home, though. Such amenities were common in the homes of Old Order Amish members. At one point Eli had considered "jumping the fence" to that particular sect because their rules were much more lax than the Andy Weaver group.
As deputies wrapped up with the witnesses and Barbra's body was taken from her home, detectives were just wondering one thing. Where exactly was Eli Weaver? Firman Yoder had told them he was fishing at Lake Erie with a group of Amish and Mennonite men he typically hunted and fished with. They asked that he try to contact the man and have him come back. While Firman was unaware of Eli's cell phone, he did know that Steve Chupp had one and would be present on the trip. As a matter of fact, Steve would need to drive the group in his Dodge Caravan as Eli's "taxi lady" was unavailable that day.
On the morning of June 2, 2009, Steve Chupp arrived at Eli's home with another friend of theirs, David Yoder, no relation to Firman. It was around 3:15 on that dark, quiet morning that the men pulled up to pick Eli up for their planned fishing trip to Lake Erie. David went to the front door and knocked only to receive no answer. This was strange. Eli should've been up and ready to go. David and Steve both walked around the house, trying several doors before finally rousing their fishing buddy. They managed to get his attention when they began knocking at the door off of the back deck. This door was the closest to Eli and Barbra's bedroom.
From where they stood at the door, they could see his bedroom light come on. Though they had clearly woken somebody, Eli didn't answer the door for a good 5-10 minutes. When he did finally come to the door, he offered up a feeble excuse that no one could remember later. They made a stop at Eli's shop to obtain a fishing license for one of the men before hitting the road. They picked up two more fishermen before making a pit stop at a gas station in Wooster for drinks and snacks. The entire trip, Eli sat up front beside Steve, extremely focused on the phone he appeared to be guarding from the rest of the group. They stopped at a family-style restaurant called Vansons in Monroeville for breakfast. There, Eli ordered two plates stacked high with food and barely touched any of it.
Eli behaved strangely the entire trip. A couple of times during their meal at Vansons, he made trips to the bathroom with his cell phone. Both trips were very long, as though he were talking to someone privately on the phone. While he was away on one of these bathroom trips, Steve asked the others if they noticed the amount of food Eli had ordered. One of the men commented that he was acting "kind of strange." Not a single one sitting at that table could disagree. Little did they realize that their day was only going to get much stranger.
The long, dark drive was mostly quiet, with the men speaking only a little during their ride. As it was still quite early in the morning, they slept through most of the trip. Eli, however, was wide awake, guarding his phone from prying eyes with his jacket. Steve asked if he was looking at the radar. Eli just grunted at his friend's question and rolled his shoulder further over his phone. Steve shrugged it off and continued driving.
It was 6:00AM when they reached their destination. The men met with the owners of Knot Lost Charters, Dan and Tami Murphy. Each of them ponied up $100 to join the couple on their 30 foot charter. Eli's strange behavior had not improved. At one point, he began looking for his tackle box while he was still holding it in his hand. While I can admit to having done this with small objects, I've never looked for an entire box filled with items as I held it. Eli asked the others if they had seen his tackle box. One of them kindly reminded him that he was holding it.
Just a couple of hours into their trip out on the lake, Steve Chupp's phone began to ring. When he answered, it was Firman Yoder calling to deliver the terrible news about Barbra. Steve, of course, handed the phone off to Eli, but he wasn't interested in talking to Firman. Eli's neighbor informed him that his wife had been found unresponsive and an ambulance had been called for her. The authors of A Killing in Amish Country stated in their book that Eli's only reply to hearing of his wife's condition was, "Here, I'll hand the phone over to somebody else." Firman ended up telling Steve what had happened and that Eli needed to come home right away.
Steve assured him that they would be back as soon as possible. With that, the Lake Erie fishing trip was packed in and everyone returned to Steve's Dodge Caravan for the long ride home. While everyone waited, Barbra's neighbor, Amanda Troyer gave her statement to police. Her comments about Eli matched those of every other person they had already talked to. While her statement was helpful, it was Barbra's sister and Eli's friends that would prove to be the most helpful in the investigation.
Amanda had visited with Barbra the night of her murder. She said Eli was gone, as usual. By this point, detectives were getting the picture that Eli wasn't home much. The two women sat out on Barbra's porch and enjoyed the warm summer night. The children were running and playing in the yard, having a great time. They would hear Amanda repeat more of what they had already heard from others in the area. He was dishonest to his wife and she suspected him of having another affair. He was also financially abusive towards her, making her beg for money to support the family.
Fannie Troyer would also provide a lot of information about the state of Barbra and Eli's marriage. She had been the only person that Barbra talked to about it for a long time. She knew everything from the different types of abuse Eli was capable of to the affairs he threw in his wife's face all the way down to the counselor Barbra had been writing to. In multiple interviews with police, Fannie laid out her sister's entire life and marriage for them. It was a bleak story that left investigators shaking their heads and pointing their fingers in one direction. Straight ahead at the manipulative man that had lied to, cheated on, and abused his wife for ten years.
As Steve Chupp dutifully rushed his friend home, he checked in with a friend of his at the Apple Creek Fire Department. He was told to prepare for the worst because there had been no talk over the radio regarding Barbra. This is a bad sign in a situation where emergency services have to be contacted. As they continued their trek, Steve got another phone call. This time from Detective John Chuhi. He was asked where the group was at and where Eli Weaver was specifically. Steve replied that Eli was with them and they were heading back to Maysville already. Detective Chuhi informed him that they were to drive to the Justice Center in Wooster instead.
The detective told him not to stop anywhere, but because Steve's van wasn't exactly easy on gas they needed to stop and fill up if they expected to make it. The moment Steve pulled his van up to the gas pump, Eli leapt from the vehicle and rushed to the bathroom as though his life depended on it. As Steve began to fill up his van, he noticed that Eli was texting somebody as he made his way to the bathroom. Within just a few minutes, Eli reemerged and the men were back on the road. Upon arrival, the rest of his fishing group decided that the only decent thing to do was to stay by their friend in his time of need. They told Detective Chuhi, "We're here to support Eli." These good, faithful, God-fearing men would not be in support of him for long.
While Eli was led off by detectives, his fishing companions sat down and waited patiently. As they waited, another member of their group that had not attended the Lake Erie trip called with more news. Mark Weaver, no relation to Eli, was calling to tell the men that the deputies on scene were saying Barbra had been murdered. Gregg Olsen and Rebecca Morris published Steve's recollection of that moment, saying, "We put our heads together. Red flags went up. We knew Eli was a possible suspect."
Detective Chuhi reemerged to inform the fishing group that this was indeed a homicide investigation. He asked Steve to stay, but allowed the others to go home. Whether Eli realized it or not, he wouldn't be going anywhere for the next few hours.
Eli was taken into an office, where detectives read him his Miranda rights. According to A Killing in Amish Country, Detective Chuhi's report read, "It should be noted during the interview with Eli Weaver that he was found to show very little emotion for someone who learned about losing their wife that morning. When confronted with the involvement or knowledge of his wife's death, he stated a number of times he understood why we would believe he was involved. Eli also displayed weak denials and had a 'casual' attitude during the interview."
When the not-so-grieving husband began walking investigators through the timeline, he started with his fishing trip to Berlin Reservoir the previous day. He left to go fishing with his friend, Mark Weaver, somewhere between 2:00-2:30 that afternoon. They spent the entire day out there, with Eli not returning home until sometime between 11:00-11:30 that night. His "taxi lady," Barb Raber, had driven them out there for the day. She also drove them back home later. When he returned home, Eli did some chores, like feeding his deer and putting a horse in its stall. He claims to have spoken to Barbra as she lay in bed before showering and joining her.
Detectives would later learn that Barb had stayed for that fishing trip at Berlin Reservoir. Mark Weaver told them that during the trip the two had acted very odd. Eli and Barb took every chance they could to be alone together. He noticed that they whispered often and seemed to be up to something. Their sneaky behavior that day began raising many red flags after Barbra's death.
Eli claims to have overslept that morning, with Steve Chupp and David Yoder waking him up at around 3:15. He said that all of the children were still fast asleep when he left through the west basement door of the house. Conveniently, he couldn't remember if he locked it or not.
Detectives asked him if he and Barbra had argued, to which he said no. What had Barbra been wearing that night? He said a blue nightgown. Had they engaged in any sexual conduct before he left? No. When was the last time they had sex? He said Sunday afternoon.
Eli described his last conversation with his wife as he dressed for his fishing trip to Lake Erie that morning. She asked him if they had caught any fish the previous day at Berlin Reservoir and if they had fun. At one point, she got out of bed to help him find some clothes. He claims that when he last saw his wife, she was either standing or walking in the bedroom. Harley, Susie, and Lizzie were asleep on the main floor when he left. He said that Firman had called him while he was on the boat in Lake Erie to tell him Barbra was unresponsive and an ambulance had been called. Then his friend, Mark Weaver, called to tell him that Barbra had died of an aneurysm.
When asked about his affairs, he only admitted to his affair with Cherie Lindstrom. He said that he had confessed to Barbra, but only because he got caught having sex with her inside his shop. As far as he knew, Barbra had forgiven the transgression. When prompted by investigators, he also admitted to one other partner, Barb Raber. The bishops had warned him against seeing her again, but he ignored their demand. In January Barb and Eli had sex at her house several times. When asked if there were any other affairs, Eli said no.
Investigators were almost done with Eli for the day. When they asked him if he had any knowledge of or involvement in his wife's death, he said no. Detectives asked if he would agree to take a polygraph. He agreed. They asked him what the results were going to be. He told them, "Truthful."
While Eli was sweating in one room, Steve Chupp was speaking to Detective Chuhi in another. He said that he arrived at the Weaver residence just after 3:00 that morning. Because Eli was still asleep, it took himself and their friend, David Yoder to rouse him by pounding on the back door. Finally, the light came on in the bedroom and Eli emerged a few minutes later. They made a quick stop inside his shop to get a fishing license for one of the men before they left.
Steve mentioned in his statement to police that Eli had acted strangely all day. Ordering a large meal and hardly eating. Disappearing into the bathroom with his phone for long periods. Looking for his tackle box as he held it in his hand. He had also forgotten to bring a reel for another one of the fishermen.
As Detective Chuhi listened intently, Steve told him that they arrived at the Knot Lost Charters at about 6:00 that morning. They were embarking on what would typically be an eight hour fishing trip. The trip was cut short when Firman Yoder called to inform them that Barbra was unresponsive. One thing Steve found particularly odd was the way Eli reacted when he told him they were asked by detectives to go straight to the Justice Center. Eli didn't seem surprised at all. He never even asked why. After this, he was thanked for his cooperation and sent home. On his way, he stopped at Eli's house to drop off his tackle box.
Eli was driven home by detectives, where he then consented to another search of his house, barn, store, and the outbuildings on the property. His hands were also tested for gunshot residue and he agreed to hand over the clothes on his back for testing. As detectives didn't want him entering his house, a deputy went inside to get him some clothes. Inside his barn, he stripped his clothing as evidence. A blue jacket, blue pants, a blue vest, a white shirt, tan work shoes, men's underwear, white socks, and a grey sweatshirt were all taken to be tested.
Photographs were taken of every item he took on his fishing trip with him. His red and white tackle box, two fishing rods, a plastic bag with a can of pizza-flavored Pringles inside, bags of peanuts, along with other snacks, and a bottle of water. Police took his tackle box and a second jacket he'd taken with him that morning as well.
While his children stayed with Fannie and her husband, Eli was driven to Millersburg to stay with his parents. The detectives asked if there was a number he could be reached at. He told them no. He was informed that he would be picked up the following morning for his polygraph.
Detectives had heard an awful lot about Eli's extramarital affairs. In particular, they heard Barb Raber's name mentioned enough to make them curious about her. They even had Eli admitting to an affair with her. The day after Barbra's body was discovered, Detective Chuhi spoke with Barb on the phone. She asked if she was a suspect. Chuhi told her that he didn't think so, but he wanted to meet with her in person to talk about Eli. They set up a meeting for the following day. In the parking lot of a local medical center in Millersburg, they met and talked.
Barb proceeded to tell the detective her entire life story, starting from her very tragic beginning. She talked about her humble, sorrowful start to life with the adoptive family that had already lost so much. She really tried her best to paint herself in the most pitiable light possible.
It wouldn't take long for investigators to find out about Eli's cell phone. At a meeting with some of his fishing companions, detectives not only learned that Eli had a phone, but they got the numbers for he and Barb Raber as well. As it would turn out, they received these number just in time. In 2009, cellphone providers could only retrieve text messages from the previous five days. Had Detectives Chui and Maxwell been any later getting these numbers, the incriminating messages that broke the case wide open would've been lost forever. Such as the messages from Barb telling Eli not to give out the number to police after Barbra's body was found. She quickly had the numbers to both of their phones changed, but it was too late.
Dozens of damning messages were discovered between the two. It was quickly found from reading these texts that Barb didn't only help orchestrate Barbra Weaver's murder, she agreed to commit the atrocity for Eli. For weeks, the two messaged murder methods back and forth as they tried to find the perfect solution. Barb was thinking of everything she could while Eli continued to badger her relentlessly to just figure it out and get it done, no matter what it took. They toyed around with different ideas. Poisoning her with insecticides, blowing up the house, but they finally settled on shooting her. At one point, Barb tried to tell Eli as he pressured her that it would be hard to get done with the children around. He callously suggested that if something should happen to the kids, they would go to Heaven.
It was also found that Eli was asking others for help in killing his wife. Going back through the numbers of old girlfriends, Eli asked a few of the women he'd previously had relationships with for help in his devious plot. In one of these interactions, he contacted his first girlfriend, Shelley Casey. She was appalled at his question, but never thought that he would really do it. Once the news about Barbra spread, she quickly contacted police about the odd call she'd received from her ex-boyfriend.
As police would come to find, the night of Barbra's murder was hardly the first attempt made on her life. One night Eli had poured a glass of ginger ale, spiked it with sleeping pills he received from Barb, and left it on the counter. Barbra thought her husband had done something nice for her, pouring her a drink and leaving it out for her. She grabbed the glass and took a big, long drink before the bitter taste filled her mouth and she spit the soda out. She asked her husband what was in it. Mind racing for an answer, he finally told his wife that the drink had been meant for him. He had meant to kill himself with the ginger ale laced with sleeping pills. Barbra began to cry and retreated to her bedroom, as she had so many times before.
There had been one other occasion in which Barbra was almost killed. Barb Raber went to the Weaver home one night just weeks before her murder. She went there with the intention of shooting Barbra, but she got scared and fled.
Once the messages were discovered detectives had no problems obtaining arrest warrants for both Eli Weaver and Barb Raber. When authorities came knocking at Barb's door, they also had a search warrant. It had only been eight days since Barbra's murder when Detectives Chuhi and Maxwell stepped on Barb's porch, warrants in hand. Chuhi asked the nervous-looking woman if she remembered him. She did.
Barb was asked to step outside as deputies walked inside the home amassed with junk. They quickly located her three sons and arrangements were made for the boys to be picked up. As Barb's head spun, the detectives informed her that she was under arrest for the aggravated murder of Barbra Weaver. The small woman grew even smaller as detectives read her Miranda rights. Becoming quite emotional, she collapsed on the tire of a boat trailer.
Just before Detective Chuhi helped Barb to her feet, she asked if she could have an attorney. This became important later because Barb did not demand a lawyer, she simply asked, "Can I have an attorney?" She was given a brief moment to gather herself before Chuhi clarified, "You asked me if you can have an attorney." He assured her that she could have one if she wanted and Barb briefly breathed a sigh of relief. Little did she realize that technically she needed to demand an attorney to end all interviews. Simply asking if she could have one left the detectives open and able to continue questioning until she finally made it clear that she wanted an attorney. Her lawyer would try to use this as part of her defense, but it didn't play out like he planned. Maxwell and Chuhi knew what they were doing and were well within the law.
Barb was asked if she understood the Miranda rights as they were read to her. She said that she did. Chuhi asked if she would be willing to talk to them. She said that she would. They asked her directly about the night of June 1.
As she anxiously sat across the table, Barb told the investigators about waking up in the darkness of early morning. She navigated her way through the narrow pathways carved into the piles of junk in her house. She saw her husband, Ed, sleeping on the living room couch, likely the only place he could find to curl himself up in. She left Ed fast asleep to climb behind the wheel of her Ford Explorer and drive to Eli and Barbra's house. She texted with the man she'd do anything for, telling him that she was scared. It was dark. How was she even supposed to see? Eli told her to take a flashlight and then texted, "MWAH," the sound of a kiss.
For some reason, it took Barb 90 minutes to make her way from her home in Millersburg to the Weaver residence in Apple Creek. Whether it was fear or an attack of her conscience that extended her drive, it certainly doesn't take that long to make that trip. The last text that Eli sent to Barb was telling her that she could park behind the pine trees on their property. It was this text that definitively put her at the crime scene around the time of Barbra's death.
She tried to claim that she had no knowledge of or involvement in Barbra's death. She was stunned to find out that her own text messages collected by detectives told another story entirely. When presented with her attempts to help Eli plan a murder through dozens of texts, she was forced to backtrack some. Next, she told the detectives that she wondered how far Eli had intended to take his plan. When confronted with her own conversations, she broke down, claiming it was all an accident.
Through pitiful sobs and crocodile tears, Barb began to confess. She claimed that she had taken a gun from her husband's cabinet. Barbra's autopsy showed she had been shot with a .410 gauge shotgun. This particular gauge of shotgun Barb was very familiar with and fond of as she was an avid hunter, herself. She said she did not remember what gauge shotgun she took or what size shells it needed. The love-sick woman couldn't even remember loading the gun.
Barb estimated that she arrived at the Weaver home at around 4:30 in the morning. She parked her Explorer behind the barn and walked through the field to the unlocked basement door. The darkness inside the house, she remembered quite well, but she couldn't remember whether or not she brought a flashlight with her. She walked up from the basement and found Barbra asleep in her bed. According to her version of events, she had only intended to scare Barbra, nothing more. Instead the gun went off, scaring Barb rather than Barbra. Barb actually made the comment to detectives that the gunshot scared her "half to death," according to A Killing in Amish Country. She fled from the scene and returned the gun to her husband's cabinet.
Her story was all over the place from there. The plan was all Eli's idea. He had killed his wife. Yes, she went to the Weaver residence with a shotgun, but the gun went off accidentally. Of course, she didn't tell Eli that she shot Barbra, but she did apologize to him. Apparently, Eli told her that it was all his fault and he would help her through it. He said whoever was responsible needed to come forward to keep him out of prison.
The detectives asked her flat out why she committed the murder. Barb told them it was because Eli kept begging her to. He had promised to keep her out of jail, even offering $10,000. It's unclear if that money was intended as payment for the shooting or if it was for bail. Barb tried to paint herself as the victim, saying she'd tried telling Eli she couldn't do it. She was afraid of losing her family. Eli just kept at her, complaining of his wife's nagging and apparent physical abuse.
When asked if Eli had spoken with anyone else about his plans, Barb said he spoke with his friend, Tabitha Milton and her previous lover, David Weaver, no relation. Eli had even asked David if he knew someone that he could hire to get the job done. After the murder, Barb even got David to call the phone shanty at Maysville Outfitters to make threats. They wanted to make it look as though there were people after Eli. David said in a gruff and intimidating voice that he could run, but he couldn't hide.
One of the wilder pieces of Barb's statement was her story about Eli's claims to have killed two other women. She said she was afraid of him. By the end of her two-hour interview, she said that she had ultimately begun to feel threatened by him. That was why she had committed the murder. With that, the detectives felt like they had their confession. When asked if she had anything else to say, Barb simply said that she was sorry. She refused to write her statement and it wasn't recorded, either. She was taken to a jail cell, still wondering where her lawyer was.
Eli was arrested at the same time as Barb. Lieutenant Kurt Garrison and Captain Doug Hunter arrived at Maysville Outfitters to find the store empty. However, Eli was walking towards them from his house. He was placed under arrest for complicity to commit aggravated murder as he crumpled into a ball of emotions. Just as dramatically as Barb Raber, he collapsed to his knees and rested on a boat trailer. His two oldest sons, Harley and Jacob, were there to watch their father's arrest for their mother's murder.
The following day, detectives met with Barb in jail to confront her with the results of the search warrant executed on her house. They couldn't locate a gun in Ed's cabinet that matched the gauge used in Barbra's murder and that had recently been fired. They asked her if anyone could've given her the gun. She couldn't remember. As a matter of fact, now she couldn't remember if she fired the gun at all. She only confessed because she thought she would be allowed to go home if she did.
At this point, police knew her statement about "accidentally" firing the gun from the doorway was a lie. Autopsy results showed that the fatal gunshot had been fired from close range. Finally, Barb said the magic words. She told detectives she wanted a lawyer. The interview ended then and there.
Though great efforts went into finding the murder weapon, it has never been located. Both the Raber and Weaver properties were searched thoroughly, to no avail. It's been theorized that Eli could've thrown it overboard on his Lake Erie trip. This, of course accompanies the theory that Eli killed his wife before leaving that morning and set Barb up so that it appeared as though she committed the crime, even to her.
Barb did not fare well in jail. The Conservative Mennonite, known for being foul-mouthed herself, ironically couldn't take the language the other inmates used. She also couldn't figure out how to sound inconspicuous in her recorded phone calls with her husband. The amazing book, A Killing in Amish Country published many of the transcribed phone calls between the two. Though they did speak Pennsylvania Dutch in all of their calls, they didn't take into consideration that a police force in an Amish community would have officers well versed in the language. Deputy Joe Mullet with the Holmes County Police Department had grown up Amish, making Pennsylvania Dutch his first language. As the Wayne and Holmes County Departments were working this case together, Deputy Mullet was enlisted to translate the conversations.
Eli did just as badly in jail. Without any women to fawn over him or friends to devote their attention to him, he quickly grew lonely. While Barb was constantly worrying Ed with phone calls, Eli made far fewer calls to the outside. Regardless, their calls were equally self-serving. They were only concerned with what others had seen that night or had heard around town since. Though Barb confidently mentioned making it home before her boys started school that year, she never seemed to ask how they were doing in the midst of all this upheaval.
In Eli's most shocking and inappropriate move, he wrote multiple letters to his father-in-law, David Miller. He actually had the nerve to write to the man grieving the loss of his daughter after openly planning her murder to say that he missed her. There seemed to be absolutely no bounds to the shamelessness he displayed.
Just a few weeks before his trial was set to begin, Eli surprised everyone again. He pleaded guilty to complicity to commit aggravated murder. In exchange for a lighter sentence, he agreed to testify against his former lover. Eli would serve 15 years to life in prison. Barb, confident that she would be found innocent, took her chances at trial.
Her attorney tried to cast reasonable doubt on Barb's involvement. After all, it was just as possible that Eli had shot his wife and set Barb up to be there. Eli had taken an inordinately long time to answer the door that morning before leaving on his fishing trip. He had been the last person to see her alive. The murder weapon had also never been found on Barb's property.
However, her internet searches were damning. Such searches as, kill yourself pills, where can I get strychnine poison?, what poisons kill humans, fastest poison to kill a person, and ten best ways to kill yourself were found on her browsing history. Text messages that were retrieved from between the two told a grim story as well. Not only do those texts map out the plotting of Barbra's murder, cell phone ping technology places Barb at the scene of the crime around the time of Barbra's death.
The prosecution had one more surprise for Barb. Their surprise witness, Jamie Wood, Barb's cellmate. Though Barb had promised her husband she wouldn't talk with the other inmates, she struck up a fateful friendship with her cellmate. She told different versions of what happened that night and what led up to it, but Jamie kept notes on all of it. She initially wrote to the judge that had sentenced her with the information looking for a reduced sentence. Even after finding out she would not receive a reduced sentence, she still decided to testify against Barb. Her testimony was just one more nail in Barb's coffin. Though the defense tried to discredit Jamie as a sex offender, the prosecution pointed out that Jamie still agreed to testify knowing she would receive nothing in return.
Barb's public defender pointed to the fact that Eli's clothes from that morning had been taken into evidence and his hands tested for gun powder residue. Barb's clothes had not been taken and her hands were never tested. This was also easily ripped apart by the prosecution as the detectives had no knowledge of her involvement until after they pulled the cell phone records. By that point there was no use in testing her hands and the clothes she'd worn that day likely would've never been found in the hurricane wreckage that was her home. As hard as the defense fought, they just kept getting swatted down at every turn by the prosecution.
By the end of the trial, Barb's attorney did manage to cast a fair deal of reasonable doubt. Though her texts place her at the crime scene, there is no admission of guilt in the messages. Barbra's autopsy showed that she had been shot at close range, but all of Barb's stories have her shooting from the doorway. The .410 gauge shotgun used in the murder was never recovered for ballistics testing or fingerprinting. Eli had been the last person to see his wife alive and with no other witnesses, he easily could've been the one to fire the fatal shot.
Eli was sentenced to 15 years to life for his testimony against Barb Raber. His sentence was justified by the fact that he provided information on Barb's prior attempts at killing his wife. It would be the documented proof of her help in planning the crime and the prior two attempts made on Barbra's life by Barb that would seal her fate. The state asked for life without parole or 30 years to life. Due to the compelling evidence in this case, she was sentenced to 20 years to life, with another 3 years on a gun charge. Her confidence in beating the charges against her and going home evaporated right there behind the defense table. Barb Raber was guilty of murder.
The five Weaver children's lives were irreparably damaged by their father's selfish actions. Because the Amish Stud that didn't want to be Amish couldn't find the courage to leave the community during Rumspringa, his children had to suffer. The two older children stayed with their aunt and uncle, while the younger three were placed with another relative.
Unfortunately, domestic abuse occurs just as often in Amish communities as the rest of the world. Due to their belief in privacy and keeping to themselves, it was never discussed. Divorce was also unthinkable unless the petitioner wanted to be shunned. In the case of the mother petitioning, the children would be shunned with her. Things changed dramatically for the Amish after Barbra Weaver's murder. Though the young, sweet mother was killed, her death was not in vain. Since then, measures have been taken to help domestically battered Amish wives. Communities have become more open about the issue and women in abusive relationships are even encouraged to leave now.
Barbra Weaver's story is a sad one, but one worth telling. Domestic abuse is a crisis that claims far too many victims. The victims' stories deserve to be told. If just one battered woman can find the courage to leave from their stories, then their deaths were not for nothing. For a deeper dive into this case and the trial of Barb Raber, I encourage you to add A Killing in Amish Country to your reading list. The informative and talented authors do an amazing job of bringing this case to life in your hands. I would highly recommend any book written by these impressive authors.