Edward Gingerich

Edward Gingerich was the first Amish person ever charged with murder when he was arrested for the beating and dismemberment of his wife in March of 1993.  Does that mean that he was the first Amish person to ever commit homicide?  I do not know.  Although it was the murder itself that outraged the Amish community, it seems that the "English" (as the Amish liked to call non-Amish people) were more stunned at the treatment (or non-treatment) that Edward Gingerich had received for his obvious mental issues prior to the murder. Although, admittedly, it seems he got more help than the Amish would normally get at times, but only when his behavior became more than others could control.

On March 18, 1993 Daniel Gingerich went to an English neighbors home to use their phone and call 911.  His five year old nephew had ran, almost a mile, to his home telling him that his father, Edward, Daniel's brother, was beating his mother, Katie, and they needed help.  By the time Daniel arrived at his brother's home he saw Edward was covered in blood and on the floor lay Katie, beaten and disemboweled with her internal organs laying in a pile next to her body. Daniel was fearful and saying nothing ran to the neighbors home.  By the time the authorities arrived Edward Gingerich apparently had changed his clothing (as no reports seem to say he was seen covered in blood anymore) and was walking down the road with his two youngest children who had witnessed the murder of their mother. At that point it seems that only a fire/ambulance had been dispatched and the driver knew Edward Gingerich as he had been there the previous year.  The driver had assumed until he saw Edward walking that this would be like his previous visit when Edward Gingerich seemed to be hallucinating and thrashing around so since he was to go to the home he continued on his way.  When he got there he found Katie's body and called in to have the police sent, letting them know where he had seen Edward and have them take him into the police station.

Edward Gingerich had often been referred to as a rebel in his community and it was known fairly early on that he was not completely stable but until a few years prior to his murdering of Katie it did not seem to be extreme.  Unlike Amish tradition Edward seemed to be overly interested in modern technology when it came to tools and farm equipment.  To some he seemed to be "overly friendly" with the English which worried some of the more traditional Amish community members. Some worried when the marriage of Edward and Katie was all but arranged but others believe, Katie, who was more traditional, would be able to help Edward back into the fold of how things in the Amish life should be. Of course Edward had the opportunity to leave the Amish life long before he and Katie were married but like many in the community they know to leave not only meant entering an entirely new type of world to them but also to never truly speak to their family again and that is often what keeps young Amish in the community.  Was that the case here?  I do not think anyone could say.

Most of us know, maybe by reading or seeing things on television, that for the most part the Amish way of life looks down on modern technology like cars,electricity, telephones or even modern tools (not to mention many require electricity that they do not have). They also do not fully embrace modern medicine.  Now, over time, as economic ability and what not has changed some communities have relented in some ways in areas.  I know that here in Indiana, at least in the northern part of the state where there is a large Amish community, due to economic reason some Amish have began working in factories.  Some take their horse and buggy to work and others get rides with co-workers in cars. They also apparently, at least by 2006, provided psychiatric care to some in the Amish community.  Now, what that entails I cannot say, nor can I say that this was available in 1993 when Edward killed his wife. What I can say is that the community that Edward lived in, in Crawford County Pennsylvania at the time appeared to only seek modern help for Edward when things seemed to be out of control.  

After the birth of their first child, Daniel, it seems that Edward really started having more issues.  He had fallen into a deep depression and soon began hallucinating.  Many also felt with his propensity for being nice to the English he tended to listen to them.  It was reported that an English man regularly visited the community sawmill in which Edward worked and that he had put "thoughts in his head" that in order to be "saved" he must renounce his faith and become a born again Christian or he would go to hell.  Whether this same English man convinced Edward that Katie was holding him back and maybe be possessed by the devil is uncertain, but it seems that Edward believed those things at times.  Over the next few years, Edward was hospitalized at least twice in modern hospitals after having some sort of psychotic break.  Each time he was given anti-depressants and anti-psychotic medication to take and each time he would stop taking it eventually.  It is not uncommon for the mentally ill to stop taking their medication for varies reasons including that they think they are better or they feel the medication makes them feel funny.  But, it seems too that the community and family members were not exactly supportive considering it was modern medicine.  It seems that in between his hospitalization and the eventual murder when he was seemingly having issues he would often visit non-traditional doctors. In fact, a neighbor reported after the murder that just the day prior he had taken Edward, Katie and one of Edwards brothers to a Chiropractor in the area.  Basically this man treated many of the Amish people calling it a "drugless therapy" where he did scalp massages and gave out "herbal" medicines.  This seemed to be the extent that at least some Amish were willing to go when it came to medication.  Apparently they believed in these cures or at least until things got out of hand... to which they did the day following Edward's visit.  

On March 18th there was a wedding in the community but it seems that most family members agreed that Edward was not in the correct mind to go.  Edward may have also agreed as he had expressed in the last few days of "not feeling well" and it was reported possibly thinking of suicide.  The wedding was apparently an all day event and some family members would go to festivities while others would stay with Edward and watch over him.  Apparently Katie was planning to leave soon and one of Edward's brothers was going to stay with him when while she was washing dishes Edward entered the kitchen and began hitting her.  She was able to yell out to her son to run to his uncle's home for help.

The following year Edward was convicted of involuntary manslaughter but mentally ill and was sentence to serve between 2.5 years to 5 years. He eventually served the whole five years and after spending his time in the prison ward of a mental hospital was released on March 19, 1998. Many in the Amish community pushed to have him never released, while others argued that because he was considered mentally ill and received treatment while in prison, that the classification of the sentence did not require that he be supervised as adequately and all but simply released as he was considered "cured."  By this point the Amish community in Crawford County considered him "shunned" and would not allow him to return.  This also meant that his family was restricted by religion in taking him in or helping him.  Other Amish communities did not feel the same way and so upon his release he went to what was called a "mental health facility" for the Amish in Michigan.  Now, again, whether these facilities were available prior to the murder I cannot say nor do I know if they had been available if the community in Crawford County would have embraced it.  Apparently, although I could not find specifics in December of 2006 there was an "incident" there and he left and spent a short time at another Amish psychiatric unit in Indiana but only for a month or so.  By February 2007 he was back in Crawford County but not specifically in the Amish community.  After the murder Edward and Katie's children were raised by their "grandparents" (I assume this was Katie's family but I cannot be completely certain). When he returned to the area two of his brothers and his two oldest sons began minimal contact with him but then they too were being shunned by the community.  His daughter, Mary was still living with her grandparents and he was unable to see her but wanted to.  

So in April of 2007, apparently with the help of two of his brothers, Edward was able to "kidnap" Mary.  He later said that technically since she was 17 (some reports say she was 15, but she was 3 in 1993 when her mother was killed so she would have been 17 in 2007), he wanted to be able to see her before, through Amish tradition, she would be an adult and would be required to also shun him.  Whether this is true is anyone's guess. She was found safe with her father and some of his relatives five days later.  He eventually pleaded no contest and got six months probation and a $500 fine.  Two of his brothers were eventually arrested and released on bond for helping him hide Mary.  I found no other information on their parts so I assume charges were likely dropped.  This may again come from the way the Amish guard their privacy unless there is no other way around it. A year later, in February 2008 Edward was witnessed hunting deer with a rifle.  Someone reported it to authorities and considering his felony conviction the possession of a firearm was against his parole.  He served three months in prison for this.

Eventually it seems that the brothers who had re-established a relationship with Edward and later shunned by the Amish community wanted to make amends with their people.  Most believe that in order to do so there must have been some sort of deal in which Edward was not to be near the area.  Throughout this time, apparently since his release from prison in 1998 or at least the last several years, it seems that he had continued to take his medication and was seeing a psychiatrist on a regular basis. However, most seem to think that by 2010 when he was currently living with an English attorney and his wife he had stopped the medication and become distraught over the fact that his brothers had gone back to the community and shunned him.  Apparently according to most reports, he was always ashamed of his actions involving the murder of Katie and was upset over never being able to see his family, especially his children.  On January 14, 2011 Edward went out to the barn to apparently feed and milk the animals and while in there hung himself from the rafters of the barn.  Most reports state that the words "Please forgive me" were written in dust on a bucket but there seems to be a question to that.

Upon hearing of his death apparently his brothers reached out to their community asking that Edward be buried in their cemetery next to Katie and they agreed.  Some feel outraged and feel as if they could only show compassion to him in death but others claim that the burial on their land, and next to Katie was more an act of kindness towards the Gingerich family than anything.  Many of the Amish had expressed they were never truly angry or hated Edward in life but that they so feared him they did not want him in their community. In death he could no longer hurt anyone.  

Mental illness is such a difficult thing to deal with.  It is difficult for the patient but it is difficult (maybe even more difficult) for the families of those who suffer.  Resources are already hard to come by and when someone refuses to be treated oftentimes the laws are on their side. But, I feel like that was not the case here.  By all accounts it seems that Edward was honest when he was having issues or they were starting, and was willing to seek help (even prior to the murder)but I feel like the community was not willing to fully get him the help he needed until things were out of control.  They were not keen on modern medicine and often believed their "therapies" were the only way to go. Mental illness is often hereditary and I saw a few reports that stated that Edward had some uncles that suffered from mental illness but it did not go into detail.  Reality is that his children are also susceptible to having mental illness.  I hope that the Amish community as a whole, but especially this community where his children live, have changed their attitudes and methods of treating those who need help.  I do not fault them for attempting to try natural methods of care but I do fault them for not realizing that they do not always work.   


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