CHARDON, Ohio - Four have been arrested after a string of crimes against Amish in Geauga, Ashtabula and Trumbull Counties, the Geauga County Sheriff Department reports.
Three adults — Gerald Joseph Wise, 19, of Cleveland; Chase Kontur, 19, of Middlefield; and Christopher Michael Barnett, 18, of Middlefield — and one 17-year-old were arrested.
Authorities believe that the four males were homeless, sleeping in a car, camping out at parks in the area, and burglarizing small amounts of money from local homes.
Eventually, they said, the four decided to try robbing Amish people.
Early Sunday, July 23, the four, wearing masks, attacked a buggy traveling on Nauvoo Road in Geauga County with baseball bats, the sheriff's department reports.
The victims fled in the buggy and reported it when they returned home at 3 a.m. No injuries required medical attention, but one person was struck in the arm and one in the leg, and the buggy was also damaged.
Later on Sunday, Geauga County Sherriff's deputies received another report of a similar attack, and heard of one in Trumbull County.
Meanwhile, the four men are believed to have been breaking into several Amish businesses in the area and a local church.
Deputies said they found the men sleeping in a 1999 Toyota Corolla at Headwaters Park with a small amount of marijuana as well as a baseball bat and other items tying them to the burglaries in the car. "The one suspect made the statement that he was relieved because he knew they would get caught sooner or later and now doesn't have to worry about a place to sleep or food to buy," said Chief Deputy Scott Hildebrand with the Geauga County Sheriff's Department. Police believe all of the suspects were homeless.
Two of the men are from Middlefield and one is from Cleveland. The juvenile is from Middlefield.
Authorities added that at least one of the men expressed relief at being arrested because he would have a place to sleep and regular meals.
Deputies ask that anyone who believes they may have been burglarized by these men contact them.