Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Edward D. Gingerich: The Only Amish Man Convicted of Murder

The Brownhill Settlement

The Amish, like everyone else, move because they are hoping for something better. During the spring of 1983, Dannie and Mary Gingerich, along with eight sons and daughters, left their home in Norwich, Ontario, and moved to a remote area of Pennsylvania. Their new home was a 150-acre farm located in Crawford County, Pennsylvania, 30 miles south of the city of Erie. The closest town, Mill Village, consisted of nothing more than a few houses and a handful of quaint buildings. The Gingerich family was the first of seven Amish clans to make the journey to what would later become know as the Brownhill settlement.

Dannie and Mary Gingerich's home (David Lohr)
Dannie and Mary Gingerich's home (David Lohr)

Edward D. Gingerich, son of Dannie and Mary Gingerich, was just 18 years old during the relocation. Ed was nothing like his father, who basically defined the term Old Order Amish. Ed was exactly the opposite; considered lazy, moody and short-tempered by those who knew him well. Ed had completed his eight grades of Amish education1 while living in Ontario, Canada.

By June of 1985, the Brownhill settlement had grown to 13 families, with a total population of 93. Dannie Gingerich had built a diesel-powered sawmill2 on the corner of Frisbeetown Road and Ed was eager to learn the mechanics of its operation. It was not long before Ed began impressing fellow Amish men with his natural mechanical knowledge and skill. Ed soon befriended a local Englishman, Richard Zimmer. The Amish referred to their non-Amish neighbors as English or Englishmen. Ed would often times avoid church by faking illness and spend his time at Zimmers nearby farm. As their friendship grew, Ed began to confide in Zimmer that he did not understand the Amish way of life, and disliked doing everything the hard way. He also confided that he had been thinking about leaving the Amish faith, but that he was not exactly sure how to go about it. Ed felt trapped in an entanglement of rules by which he no longer wanted to live.

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1. The Amish feel that their children do not need more formal education than eight grades. Although they pay school taxes, the Amish have fought to keep their children out of public schools. In 1972, the Supreme Court handed down a landmark unanimous decision, which exempted the Old Order Amish and related groups from state compulsory attendance laws beyond the eighth grade.

2. The Amish are allowed to use gas-powered machinery to a certain extent, however the use of tractors, cars and power-driven machinery is prohibited. Bottled gas is used to operate water heaters, stoves and refrigerators. Gas-pressured lanterns and lamps can be used to light homes, barns and shops. This is acceptable because it is self-reliance on a natural Godly source of power, as opposed to man-made electricity.

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