Three Elderly Mennonite Women Attacked in ‘Heinous’ Hate Crime

Three Mennonite sisters, ranging in age from 84 to 90, remained hospitalized in Lancaster County, Penn., after being assaulted in their home in what authorities describe as a “heinous” and “unfathomable” hate crime.

The alleged perpetrator, 22-year-old Dereck Taylor Holt, was arrested Saturday, one day after a man posing as an insurance salesman forced his way into the women’s home. Over a two-hour period, the assailant used a stun gun on the women and punched, slapped and kicked them. They were left bound for about four hours after the assailant ransacked the house and fled, the Lancaster Intelligence Journal reported in today’s editions.

One of the women suffered a heart attack following the attack, another sustained a broken shoulder, and the third suffered a brain hemorrhage, Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman said Monday.

“This is one of the most serious crimes that we've had in Lancaster County history, one of the most heinous crimes that didn't result in a homicide,” Stedman said.

“I've been doing this for 20 years," he said. "To say that I'm shocked by this – we're all shocked by this – is an understatement.”

The prosecutor said the depth of Holt's crime is “unfathomable,” and that it’s fortunate authorities aren’t investigating three homicides. “It doesn't get much more serious than this,” Stedman said, adding that it appears the suspect “had plenty of time to think about this crime, to plan it out.”
Stedman said the suspect, who studied religion and philosophy while attending Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, N.C., is believed to have targeted the women because of an unexplained hatred for Mennonites, the Lancaster newspaper reported.

There are conflicting reports about whether the suspect also is a Mennonite.  Holt lists his current home as Rimrock, Ariz., the newspaper reported.

Holt is charged with three counts each of aggravated assault, simple assault, reckless endangerment, ethnic intimidation, unlawful restraint and false imprisonment. He also is charged with single counts of robbery, burglary and theft.

Authorities didn’t disclose what led the Holt’s arrest.

After being arraigned Monday, he is being held at the Lancaster County Prison under a $1 million bail. He is a 2008 graduate of Hempfield High School, located in Landisville, Pa., not far from Lancaster.

The victims, Stedman said, are "doing fairly well, under the circumstances."