Three elderly Mennonite sisters were attacked in their home in Lancaster County, Pa., on Friday by a 22-year-old man in what police have characterized as a hate crime.
Dereck Taylor Holt, police say, posed as an insurance salesman to gain entrance into the house, where he attacked two of the sisters, punching them and tying them up, before burglarizing the home. While the attack was taking place, a third sister came home; she too was tied up, punched, and stunned with a stun gun. Northern Lancaster County Regional Police Chief David Steffen said Holt did not know any of the victims, who are aged between 84 and 90 years old, but targeted them because of their faith.
"They suffered multiple electrical shocks, were incapacitated and left," Steffen told The Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era. "They were unable to move for a long period of time. That could have led to bad things like blood clots and positional asphyxia."
He added that all three of the women, who remained hospitalized Saturday, "are doing remarkably well considering their age.”
Holt reportedly read aloud from Bible passages during the hours-long home invasion before damaging it, pouring household chemicals onto furniture and floors, and making off with cash and valuables. The victims said that during the attack Holt identified himself as a former Mennonite – a Pennsylvania German ethno-religious group with ties to the Amish.
After three hours, police said, Holt fled the Clay Township house. A few hours later, the three women were discovered tied up in the home by a relative.
This is a hate crime," said Steffen. He confirmed that Holt was arrested on Saturday on an undisclosed offense and charged with aggravated assault, ethnic intimidation, burglary, and other offenses. He is currently being held on $1 million bail.