Former Amish sect member speaks about attacks

WKYC-TV NBC News, Ohio/October 13, 2011

Carrollton -- A former member of the Bergholz Clan, thought to be behind the recent beard-cutting attacks, is speaking out against the group.

Their leader, Sam Mullet, moved with some 120 fellow Amish to Bergholz some 15 years ago. He says to live by his rules.

But what has that meant?

Former Bergholz member and son-in-law to Sam, we'll call Ayden, compares the sect to the former Peoples Temple, whose leader was Jim Jones. In 1978, the cult ended in a mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana.

"I'm not surprised if I have to call the sheriff some day and say there are a lot of dead people lying around here. That would not be a surprise to me nor would it be a surprise to the sheriff of that county," Ayden said.

Ayden lived in Bergholz between 2000 and 2006. He fled to eastern Pennsylvania where he lives today.

"I have enough inside information that I have no question if something is not done, there will be people that get hurt," Ayden said.

The former member says there were forced beatings, pitting one member against another.

Ayden says there is a heavy price to pay for disagreeing with Sam Mullet.

"He would take the wife from the man. The wife would have to go and live with Sam. The husband of that wife would have to go to the chicken coop or out in the barn in the middle of the winter, sometimes day and night," Ayden said.

Arlene Miller and her family say they helped get Mullet's son, Bill, and family out of Bergholz about the same time Ayden left. She heard many stories.

"The brainwashing, the beatings, the locking up, and the women he is using," Miller said.

Miller's husband, Myron, was attacked last Tuesday and had six inches of his beard cut off by the assailants.

Mullet denies his clan is a cult but sees value in punishing those who don't follow church teaching.

"You don't obey the law, you're punished, and it's the same way with the church," Mullet said.

Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla says he has received many secondhand reports over the years of this kind of activity in the Bergholz sect.

He has investigated such complaints but has not been successful in identifying the victims nor getting anyone to press charges.

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