“I’m the bad guy. My father will understand”
Edward Gingerich belonged to the strict religious sect the Amish — he is the only member ever convicted of murder. He chopped up his wife in front of their children.
The Amish, who have settlements in 22 states of America, eschew the modern world and preserve the simple outlook of their forebears. There is no such thing as an Amish divorce, and until 1993, there had never been an Amish murderer. Edward Gingerich arrived in Crawford County, Pennsylvania, 48 km (30 mi) south of the city of Erie, in 1983 with his family. He was 18 years old.
By June 1985 Gingerich was working at the family sawmill on the corner of Frisbeetown Road. He became friends with Richard Zimmer, an Englishman — all non-Amish are known as English to the sect. He told Zimmer that he did not like the Amish ways and wanted to leave.
In 1985 Gingerich met Katie Shetler (born 17 March 1964), the daughter of a respected elder, and they began going out together. Under pressure from both families Gingerich proposed and on a rainy 2 December 1986 they married. They lived in her parents’ basement until a home could be built. In the spring of 1987 Katie fell pregnant and on 20 September gave birth to a son, Dannie E., named after his paternal grandfather. Gingerich began spending more time alone, ignoring his new wife and family.
In July 1988 he began to suffer from dizzy spells and sleeping a lot. Katie arranged an appointment for her husband with Dr Merritt W. Terrell, a medic favoured by the Amish. He diagnosed that Gingerich needed a toe pulling and a foot rub, gave him a jar of blackstrap molasses for purifying his blood and charged $25.
Gingerich did not improve despite more visits and more molasses. On 21 March 1989 Katie gave birth to Enos and again Gingerich ignored her and their sons. On 3 December the sawmill, which was uninsured, burned to the ground. Gingerich was given permission to build a new mill. On 13 March 1990 Katie gave birth to daughter Mary. Gingerich refused to sleep with his wife again, fearful she would become pregnant and told her he wanted to leave the sect. In August Gingerich met born-again Christian David Lindsey who began to try and convert him. In November 1991 Gingerich and Katie moved into a new home. His health worsened and was further harmed by exposure to a solvent in his machine shop.
Then his mental state became impaired but a visit to Dr Terrell resulted only in a shoulder rub, right-foot manipulation and another jar of blackstrap molasses. He began howling and racing around his living room on all fours.
In March 1992, Gingerich was finally sectioned. He was released on 3 April and attended psychiatric appointments but soon the insanity returned. Throughout 1992 his behaviour became more bizarre. He was taken to hospital where he told a doctor that he had “a bad case of liver cancer”. Again he was sectioned but again let out, on 15 May, after ten days. Things worsened. On 17 March 1993 Gingerich was taken to Smicksburgh to see a special healer Jacob Troyer, a 46-year-old Amish. He told Katie, “Your husband has a mental problem. Take him to a hospital. I’m afraid of suicide… goodbye and good luck.” The next day Gingerich remained in bed till 9am. He was taken to Dr Terrell who massaged his scalp and gave him “liver pills”.
That day the Amish were celebrating a wedding but Katie refused to let her husband go. Around dusk the children played on the floor in the kitchen when Gingerich got up and punched his wife full in the face. He shouted at her, “I am the devil.” She told Dannie to run and fetch Dan Gingerich, Edward’s brother. The other two children remained. When Dannie arrived at his uncle’s house he said that “Daddy isn’t well” and Dan immediately set off.
When he arrived Gingerich was astride Katie and punching her in the face. He stood up and smashed his right foot into her mouth and nose. Dan tried to stop his brother but then fled to the nearest house to seek more help. Dan went to an English house and dialled 911. Meanwhile, Gingerich put on his work boots and again smashed his wife in the face, crushing her head and causing her brains to begin oozing out.
He then undressed her, grabbed a steak knife and slashed open her belly and through the 17 cm (7 in) cut removed her heart, lungs, spleen, liver, kidneys, ovaries and intestines, then stacked these in a neat pile beside her corpse. He then washed himself in the sink, threw his Bible into the fireplace and told the children to put on their coats on. “I’m taking you to Granddad’s,” he said, “then I’m coming back to burn down the house.”
Frisbeetown Road, Rockdale Township, Pennsylvania, USA
Thursday 18 March 1993
When arrested by Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Robert Rowles at a dirt road intersection near his house, Gingerich mumbled biblical passages and made vague references to the devil and said, “I’m the bad guy. My father will understand.”
Trooper Rowles told Gingerich to take off his boots and coat and as he did so a large piece of flesh fell to the ground. The trial began on the morning of 24 March 1994 at the Crawford County Courthouse in Meadville, Pennsylvania. The jury found Gingerich “guilty of involuntary manslaughter but mentally ill”. On 2 May 1994 he was sentenced to imprisonment at the State Correctional Institution in Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania for a minimum term of two and a half years and a maximum of five years.
Gingerich was released on 19 March 1998. He moved to Harmony Haven, an Amish mental health facility, in Evart, Michigan, and then to 31426 Hogback Road, Cambridge Springs. On 18 April 2007 he kidnapped his daughter from a buggy and held her for five days. On 5 December he was sentenced to six months’ probation and fined $500 after pleading no contest in October to interfering with the custody of 17-year-old Mary.