Son attacks father in latest Amish beard-cutting

An Amish man rides a horse drawn buggy through a blizzard on Feb. 10, 2010 in St. Mary's, Md. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio -

An elderly Amish man was attacked by his own son, who a sheriff said cut the man's hair and beard in the latest incident in a breakaway Amish community. The victim told the sheriff he was scared and upset but wouldn't press charges.

"I'm frustrated with it. I'm upset with it. And, here again, the man doesn't want to file charges because of his belief," Sheriff Fred Abdalla said Friday.

Abdalla warned the son in advance that he didn't want trouble and parked nearby during the father-son reunion, the first in several years.

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The sheriff said the elderly man was attacked Wednesday while visiting his son in the breakaway Amish community that's home to five suspects charged in an earlier beard-cutting attack. The son, whose father-in-law is the group's leader, wasn't among those charged earlier, Abdalla said.

Authorities in three other counties are investigating similar alleged attacks.

Such hair-cutting attacks are offensive to the Amish because they believe the Bible instructs women to let their hair grow long and men to grow beards and stop shaving once they marry.

The man, who Abdalla said was in his 70s, went to his son's home and the two talked. The man said his son then attacked him, with the help of the son's children, and wrestled the elderly man to the ground, Abdalla said.

The sheriff said the elderly man's wife tried to help her husband but was held back by her daughter-in-law.

"This guy was just totally destroyed after this happened. They just humiliated him. I talked to him. I mean, the guy's a broken man," Abdalla said.

Abdalla said the beard-cutting incidents are related to Sam Mullet, leader of the breakaway Amish group. The group has had differences with other bishops over the handling of church matters, and Abdalla said the son of the latest victim is married to Mullet's daughter.

"They changed the rulings of our church here, and they're trying to force their way down our throat, make us do like they want us to do, and we're not going to do that," Mullet said. He denied ordering the beard cuttings, but said he would not speak up against them

The sheriff said the man had been invited to visit his son. Abdalla warned the son in advance that he didn't want trouble.

"This is terrible. It is all supposed to be over differences of religion. There is no question this was pre-planned," Abdalla told the Steubenville Herald-Star. He added that the FBI is now also actively investigating the attacks.

The sheriff said the victim approached him after the attack and said he was scared and upset but would not press charges.

"I begged him to file a complaint," Abdalla said, adding the man wanted to go back to his community and consult with Amish elders.

The attacks in September and October struck at the core of the Amish identity and tested their principles. While it's uncommon for the Amish to take disputes public and enlist authorities, there is no central authority to decide so it usually falls to the church leaders or those involved

A message seeking comment was left Friday at the sheriff's office, which was closed for the Veterans Day holiday.

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