The FBI announced last week that it's investigating a string of hair-cutting attacks by members of the Amish community in Ohio, which led to the arrest of five members of the Bergholz clan, a breakaway Amish gang. In each incident, members of the clan would allegedly break into the homes of mainstream Amish and cut off their hair and beards, which are symbols of faith in the Amish community.
Chris Welch of CNN reports that Sheriff Fred J. Abdalla of Jefferson County, Ohio said that the Bergholz Clan, led by Sam Mullet, is "a cult," made up mostly of Mullet's relatives, and "everyone takes their marching orders from him."
"If I were to get a call right now telling me, 'Sheriff, they're all dead in the community out there,' it wouldn't surprise me," Abdalla said. "That's the power and control that he has over those people, because if he were to tell them right now to drink this poison Kool-Aid, they would do it."
Abdalla described one incident where a man in the Bergholz Clan said Mullet made him stay in a chicken coop for 15 days in the middle of winter over a religious disagreement, but the man would not press charges. "He was convinced that (Mullet) was doing him a favor," Abdalla said. "That's like me hitting you in the head with a two-by-four and telling you I'm doing you a favor ... and you agree and say, 'Yes, you have done me a favor.' That's how domineering (he is)."
Welch also went out to visit the Bergholz Clan, and had this bizarrely cryptic exchange with Mullet himself:
"Can you perhaps respond to these allegations that you're running a cult?" I ask.
"People say a lot of things," Mullet says, a small, confident grin on his face.
"Are you running a cult?"
"No. It's not a cult."
"What about the allegations that you're behind the beard-cutting crimes?"
"Beard-cutting is a crime, is it?"
Another minute or so goes by as I attempt to glean more information. He repeats his claims from earlier that people "say a lot of things" before he politely dismisses me and heads back inside.
Welch also asked Mullet about Aden Troyer, a former member of the Bergholz Clan who claims that Mullet brainwashed his wife, also Sam Mullet's daughter. Mullet replied: "Maybe you should ask the people whose beards were cut about the marriages they've split up." When asked to elaborate, Mullet gave "a quick chuckle," Welch writes, "and he kindly said he was done."