Inside the world of the Amish 'beard cutters': Meet the 'cult leader' with 18 children who forces men to live in chicken coops if they misbehave (and takes their wives away)

Mail, UK/October 21, 2011

He takes the wives of men who upset him and cast them out to the chicken coop in the bitterest of winters while ruling his cult with an iron fist.

It may sound like something from biblical times, but in fact it is accusations which have been made against Amish bishop Sam Mullet, 66, who is said to have been behind the beard cutting gang who are due to go on trial for aggravated burglary and kidnapping.

The recent bizarre attacks have thrust this ferociously private community into the spotlight, with horror stories emerging of rape, beatings, brainwashing and kidnapping.

A former member of the Bergholz Clan - the group thought to be behind the beard cutting - has spoken out against them, claiming that leader Sam Mullet rules the cult with an iron fist and said he wouldn't be surprised if it ended in mass suicide or some other tragedy.

The man, who did not want to be named, told WKYC that Mullet moved to Bergholz about 15 years ago with around 120 member who all have to live by his rules.

He compared the sect to the former Peoples Temple, whose leader was Jim Jones. In 1978, the cult ended in a mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana.

He told the TV channel: '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.

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

The former member says there were forced beatings, pitting one member against another and there are heavy punishments when members disagree with bishop Mullet.

He said: '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.'

One of the woman, whose husband Myron Miller had his beard cut off by the gang earlier this month, said she heard many stories about the 'brainwashing, the beatings, the locking up, and the women he is using'.

Arlene Miller said she and her husband helped one of Mullet's sons - Bill - escape from the clan and believes that may have been one of the reasons why he was attacked.

Bob Comer, friends of the Millers who witnessed the attack, told NPR that he once drove Mullet and about 15 other men and women to Mullet's chiropractor.

He said he overheard a conversation between one young woman and the 66-year-old leader.

'She said in Pennsylvania Dutch, which is a German dialect, "Sam, who's going to see you tonight?" And then the other women laughed and giggled. And I thought, "Whoa, wait a minute, is he having sex with all these women?"'

Comer said he has also heard reports of child abuse and daily beatings among the terrified community.

Until recently, the sheriff could do little, because the Amish victims chose to shrug off the assaults rather than bring in law enforcement. But with a spate of attacks since September, people began to cooperate.

Two of the Amish bishop's 18 children have been infiltrated in the beard cuttings.

Johnny S. Mullet and Lester S. Mullet will go to trial along with Levi and Eli Miller and and Daniel S. Mullet. He is Mullet's nephew.

The men hired a lawyer and the case has been sent to felony court after they waived a preliminary hearing on the evidence on Wesneday.

They were freed on $50,000 bond last week which Sam Mullet is said to have paid.

Their lawyer Andrew Hyde defended the men and said it was them paying their own legal bills and not Mullet, telling WKYC: 'The five men I've met in this case are complete gentlemen with deeply founded Christian beliefs.

'I think a lot of the fear-mongering is being done by others to try to show these gentlemen in a bad light.

'The experience I've had with them would cause me no fear at all. I'd have them in my house tomorrow.'

Devon Miller, a Mennonite man from nearby Holmesville, attended the hearing, and said he was concerned about the bad reputation the Amish community has been getting because of the alleged actions of Sam Mullet's followers.

Mr Miller said: 'This is not part of what the Amish believe.It's a good example of how too much power corrupts. Church followers should not be dominated by one person or one bishop, otherwise you have this.'

Sam 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.

The men are said to have acted at the direction of the 66-year-old over an unspecified dispute about church discipline and practices.

In the Amish community, beards on men and long hair on women have spiritual value, and forcibly cutting either is a symbolic assault meant to denigrate.

On October 4, the men are accused of bursting into an Ohio home and holding an Amish men down as they attempted to cut his beard and hair off with scissors and a battery-powered shaver.

There were more attacks, with victims including children as young as 13, who were targeted by as many as 27 members of the gang.

The attacks occurred over the past month in the heart of Ohio's Amish population, one of the largest in the United States.

Authorities are investigating similar attacks in Jefferson, Carroll and Trumbull counties, all of which Sheriff Fred Abdulla of Jefferson County believes were orchestrated by Sam Mullet.

Sheriff Abdulla said he once had a good relationship with Mullet, but the pair have had many run-ins over the years, including when he prosecuted one of his sons, Crist, for raping a 12-year-old girl.

The sheriff also claims that Mullet threatened to kill him and some of his own children nad was once involved in a custody battle. He was once committed for a psychiatric examination.

But Sam Mullett has denied he ordered the attack, but admitted the goal was to send a message to Amish in Holmes County, Ohio, that they should be ashamed of themselves for the way they were treating Mullet and his community.

Sam Mullet said: 'We'd like to get up in the morning, be left alone, live like normal people. They won't leave us be.

'But I didn't order anything like that. I didn't tell them not to, I'm still not going to tell them not to.'

Amish men typically grow beards as adults and stop trimming them when they marry, and the beards are held in high esteem.

He said the men hired a driver to carry them to Holmes County and to Carroll County, where a similar attack was carried out.

He said the driver didn't know what the men were doing.

Arlene Miller told how her husband Myron was dragged out of their bed by his beard, taken outside and assaulted.

She said: 'The guys came up and surrounded him and cut off a chunk of his beard. They were unable to get any more because he struggled so hard against them.

'The [attackers] say this is to uncover sins, and it's to straighten us out.'

A 57-year-old woman said her sons and a son-in-law who had joined the rival group and are involved in a cult attacked her and her husband.

After chopping off her husband's whiskers, they shaved her head.

'They did this to me,' she said, taking off a bandana to show her baldness.

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