Three Mennonite women were attacked with a stun gun simply because of their faith, police said on Sunday. Dereck Taylor Holt was charged with aggravated assault, ethnic intimidation, burglary and other offenses and is being held by Lancaster, Pennsylvania police.
While police chief David Steffen told the Associated Press that Holt did not know the women personally, he did know that they were Mennonite and attacked them for that reason. During the assault, which lasted several hours, he tied up the elderly women, used a stun gun on them, ransacked their home, and read Bible verses before destroying the book.
"There is no direct information that linked these individuals to targeting by the suspect. The only thing that linked them was his bias based upon their faith. They suffered multiple electrical shocks, were incapacitated and left. They were unable to move for a long period of time. That could have led to bad things like blood clots and positional asphyxia," Steffen told the Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era.
Holt allegedly told the women that he was a former Mennonite but gave no further information as to why he would attack them. He allegedly told the women he was a previous member of the faith and had significant anger towards all members since leaving the tradition.
"This is a hate crime," Steffen said. "It is a bias-based crime. It will qualify for (penalty) enhancement provisions. We will do everything we can to bring him to justice."
The women, who are between the ages of 84 and 90 are still in the hospital and "are doing remarkably well considering their age," Steffen added. They are expected to be released soon and will likely return to a welcoming community. According to the Intelligencer, police have notified other Mennonite leaders to be on alert for possible attacks.
The Mennonite religion is a branch of the Amish faith that practices a slightly more modern lifestyle. They are allowed to use electricity, drive cars, and often interact with the public more than their Amish brothers and sisters.