Transcript: 169. Amish Stud, Eli Weaver | USA

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Love is two people promising to be there for each other, for better or for worse. When a relationship develops into a lifelong bond, there is nearly nothing one partner won’t do for the other. 

Eli Weaver was an Amish man, devoted to his culture and his wife. Or so it seemed…

This shiver-sending story shares the tales of a love story gone awry. What happens when infidelity penetrates a community built so strongly on trust and monogamy? This case spreads emotions of grief and jealousy, and most importantly, disillusionment of true love. 

>>Intro Music

The Amish migrated as whole communities to the United States as early as the mid-1700s. They traditional Christians with origins in Germany who have continued to maintain the same values, pretty much since their origin. The Amish are closely related to the Mennonite churches, who believe in similar principles and ways of living but are slightly more adapted to modern ways of living. The Amish strongly believe in plain living, including ordinary clothing, minimal distractions during family time, slow incorporation of technology, and a core view of self-sufficiency. What is not needed is not wanted, and they truly believe the key to a happy life is to live off the offerings of the earth. 


At the ages of sixteen, each child is granted permission to leave the Amish community to see what the outside world, or the “English” world as they call it, has to offer them. This rite of passage is known as Rumspringa, literally meaning to go “jumping” outside of their community and its rules. At this point in their life, the young adults are not yet baptized by the church and are not held accountable for their actions. The Rumspringa typically lasts for about two full years, when they are eighteen. This also means the teens are exposed to a way of life they had never witnessed inside the Amish community. They can drive cars, use electronics and social media, drink alcohol, and even wear clothing that do not conform with their traditional dress code. 

After Rumspriga, young people are given the option to either stay with the church or leave for good. This is a final decision. One does not get additional time to decide, and   you’ve made your decision, there is no turning back. If you choose to go, you will never be welcomed back into the community. If you choose to stay, leaving will never be an easy option. About 90% of Amish youths opt to stay within the community and will go on to be baptized. This their home, this is what they know. Most of them don’t have many connections outside of their religious community and cannot bear the thought of walking out on friends and family they’ve known all their lives.


Once a person decides to stay, they are baptized, which allows them to marry someone within the church. Should a young Amish person want to marry someone outside of the community, they will have to leave. As a whole, Amish people are obedient and if members choose to break the rules or stray from their principles, they are shunned by the entire community, including their families. 


Amish individuals also tend to be private people who keep to themselves and don’t venture outside of their community. Little to no information about individuals living in Amish villages is available to the outside world, as they rarely allow personal photographs to be taken. But times have changed somewhat, and communities have been forced to adapt to the times. Today, Amish communities have computers and internet, but access is limited and regulated – it is mainly used for business purposes. More clearly defined: they can have a website to gather connections outside of their community – and that’s it.


In a community where trust and mutual respect is invaluable, business owners who have access to the internet, are expected to operate within safe boundaries. But what happens when they can’t choose between their fostered connections inside their community and opportunities luring them, just a few steps down the street?


In Wayne County, Ohio, there was a strong Amish community that had been upheld for many generations. This community was home to a young couple, Eli and Barbara Weaver. Barbara was born in Orville on February 2, 1979. She lived most of her life in Apple Creek, Ohio, as she and her family were all members of the Old Order Amish Church. As Barbara was nearing her late teens, she always daydreamed about finding her true love and raising a family on a farm. She knew she was going to stay committed to the Amish life, and she had no desire to live anywhere else. Barbara was proud to be Amish and upheld her values with respect. Eli, who was also raised within the Amish community, was not quite as devout as Barbara was.


Their different views were perhaps evident even before their marriage. During her Rumspringa, Barbara would spend her weekends reading romantic Christian literature with her friends near a small candlelight until late hours of the night. She never felt the urge to push too far past her boundaries to go partying.

Eli, on the other hand, loved every minute of his Rumspriga and embraced the new freedoms allowed to him, taking full advantage of everything outside life had to offer. Eli went partying and drinking with his new friends and experienced frat-house style fun. During this time, Eli and Barbara met through mutual friends. They spoke occasionally and harmlessly flirted with each other, and before long, a small spark turned into a serious relationship. After their Rumspringa’s, they both chose to stay within the community and be baptized. 


Barbara may have played a role in why Eli chose to stay within the church after his teenage years rather than choosing to leave and continue on his wild adventures. Barbara had always wanted to raise a traditional family with her true love, so to her, settling down with Eli was a no-brainer. 


On May 27, 1999, Eli and Barbara said their vows and promised to love each other till death parted them. The Weavers were the poster-couple of what an Amish family looks like in modern times. Eli owned a hunting and fishing store, and Barbara stayed at home, looking after their five children. They had a big, faithful family who was loved by their friends and neighbours. From the outside-in, Eli and Barbara’s marriage looked perfect. But behind closed doors, the cracks in their foundation began to show up. Like most Amish families, Eli and Barbara were not immune to the influence of the so-called “English” or non-Amish families living around them and the criticism they often faced. 


Barbara had everything she ever needed: she lived a humble life as a loving mother to her children and a devoted wife to her husband. Eli was not as invested as Barbara was. In fact, while she was distracted with the small children, he was testing the boundaries that would soon threaten the happiness of their family. Eli gave in to temptations outside of the marriage, temptations that were strong enough to drive him outside of the Amish faith and go against what he had believed up until this point in his life. 


Inside of his own community, his friend described him as being a charmer and a flirt, something no wife wants to hear her husband being described as. In the Amish community, this is even worse since it so strongly contradicts their beliefs of a single partner and marriage for life. As the owner of a fishing and hunting store within the community, Eli had a computer with internet access for his business. It was a window to the outside world and soon, he began to communicate with non-Amish women.

As time went on, Eli began to spend more and more time at the store, and less time at home. He said that he had work to do, but he spent most of his time, alone in his store, chatting to women online. All the while Barbara was home alone with five young children, and the expectation to keep a tidy home. When Eli was home, he was disengaged and withdrawn, and took his frustrations out on his family.

Barbara noticed that there was no more affection from Eli – he had changed towards her. He was no longer the loving, reliable husband she thought she’d married; instead, he was only interested in sex, and demanded it whenever he was in the mood. Barbara had never had any sex education in school growing up, nor had she been with anyone other than her husband, so pleasing him was all she knew. She felt forced to comply with Eli’s needs, regardless of her own thoughts and feelings. Arguments over their sex life became more frequent, especially when it began to challenge their religious beliefs. Barbara was strong in her faith and was devoted to the church, but Eli not so much. He constantly asked, or rather begged, Barbara, to engage in oral sex activities with him, which was something he first encountered during his Rumspringa. The Amish church, however, believes sex is only for reproductive purposes, not pleasure, so Barbara never gave in to his propositions. She felt increasingly upset when he kept asking but stood her ground.


As a business owner, Eli also had a cell phone and was permitted to use the phone for business purposes and during business hours only. However, Eli overstepped these boundaries by using the phone for much more than that. He even used the phone when he was home.


At work, he continued secretly searching for sexual partners on dating websites and apps. On top of being unfaithful to his wife, Barbara, Eli was going against many of the Amish rules and would have been in deep trouble if anyone were to find out. He managed to keep his sexual adventures a secret from his closest friends. But online, he was shamelessly advertising himself. 

On a site known as Moco-space, Eli referred to himself as an “Amish Stud” and posted prompts to his profile like “Who wants to do an Amish guy?” Dozens of women with usernames like ‘2_much_ass’ and ‘69smileygirl’, reached out to him, asking to meet him in person. For a while, Eli was able to keep his secret life separate from his supposed devout Amish life. 


But to their community, it became evident that all was not well in the Weaver home. Barbara’s sister became aware of the fact that Eli was very stingy with his money and oftentimes didn’t provide his wife with enough funds to properly support the family. In the Amish community, the wife stays home to raise and take care of the children, while the husband is the breadwinner who brings home money. The husband also approves expenditure. 

Although Eli earned a good living from his store, he kept most of the money for himself. He wanted to control her spending, even if she needed to buy something for their kids. When it was Barbara’s turn to take part in school activities like bake sales, she often didn’t even have enough money to purchase ingredients. For an Amish woman, bake sales are showcases of their talents. Not being able to buy what she needed was humiliating for Barbara. Eli, however, did whatever he pleased, even while watching his family eat little food and struggle to maintain their already meagre lifestyle.


The Weaver children had also seen Eli become physical with their mother and shove her on more than occasion. It was common for him to grab Barbara and push her around when she refused to listen or raised her own opinion. Whenever Eli was angry, he let Barbara have it – even if she was compliant. In the Amish community, women are expected to submit to their husbands. If Barbara had turned to the community bishop for comfort, he would have most likely asked what she did to deserve such a punishment rather than receiving help for Eli’s aggressive actions. Barbara felt like she had no one to turn to for help, and she was ashamed. Nothing she did could calm Eli down once he became enraged. 


Why then, if he hated his wife so much, did Eli stay? The thing is, if he were to choose another woman over his family, the community would ostracize him. The Amish community was made up of his family and friends – and ultimately, his customers. If Eli left Barbara, he stood to lose everything. He was stuck, and over time, his discontent festered as he wanted more. 


Then Eli met a woman who finally seemed like his perfect match. Barb Raber, a mother-of-three, and wife to one of Eli’s friends Ed, was an ex-Amish member who had left her community to join the Mennonites. The group had similar values to the Amish, but with fewer restrictions on technology and education. For Barb, it was a step towards freedom, a decision she made for her family. This move also made it possible for Barb to drive a car. Soon, she started working as a courier, and then a taxi driver.


Although the Amish are not permitted to drive cars, they are allowed to be inside one as long as someone else was driving. So, Eli would often receive rides from Barb when he needed to go somewhere far away – when he could not go with his horse and cart.


Barbara knew about Barb Raber, the taxi driver, and felt uneasy about the relationship between her and Eli. The Amish elders, however, had more power and wisdom than Barbara, and they saw nothing suspicious about Eli’s acquaintance with Barb Raber. After all, she was ten years older than Eli, and judging by appearances alone, did not seem like a siren out hunting for married men. Even with her senses on high alert, there was nothing Barbara could do about Barb and accusing her husband of being dishonest would have resulted in much worse consequences for her. 


But as it turned out, Barbara’s suspicions were right on the money. From the first time Eli met Barb Raber, he was obsessed with her. Firstly, Barb was someone from the outside world. She gave him the number to her second phone and gifted him a secret cell phone that he could use to contact her. Before long, Barb agreed to satisfy the oral sex needs that his wife refused to take part in. For Eli, that was all it took for him to become hooked on seeing Barb, and he found excuses to sneak in a taxi ride whenever he could. 


As Eli began spending more time with Barb, he would leave home for days at a time, telling his wife and children he needed time to himself. He lied and said he went on hunting or fishing trips. Before long, it was the norm for Eli to be away from home. Barbara was left alone with five young children, all under the age of eight, but trusted her husband and tried to crush suspicions of his infidelity whenever they arose. She would never have imagined that Eli had left her and the kids to be with another woman. Barbara looked at life through rose-tinted glasses, and firmly believed Eli was her true love, and that he felt the same about her. 


But he was often a no-show for dinner, or away on overnight hunting trips – and Barbara kept notes of his comings and goings in her journal. One night, Eli came home and shattered Barbara’s world. He told her that his life with her was no longer for him. He was not in love with her anymore and wanted to end things. He was done – with the marriage, with her and with the children. Eli confessed to Barbara that he was in love with someone else, someone he had been seeing on the side. Barbara was heartbroken; her lifelong dream had crumbled right in front of her eyes. What was she going to do with her family? How could she raise all of them on her own? How could she face the community? 

In April of 2006, Barbara sought out help, and opened up to a religious counselor about the tragic downfall of her marriage. During a session with the community relationship counselor, she handwrote notes to Eli about her frustrations. The notes contained comments and documented her thoughts about their failing marriage and the effects of it. The intention was not for Eli to read the notes – it was an exercise to express her feelings. One of these letters read, “Where did my friend, love, trustworthy husband go to?”. 


Divorce is not an option for The Amish, and members of the church are expected to remain together, no matter what. Barbara continued visiting the counselor and holding onto the hope that Eli would one day change his mind and return to his family. 

One night, Barbara returned home to find Eli inside. But this man was not the man she married. He had a clean-shaven face and was wearing modern clothing. Eli made it clear that he was there to see his children not Barbara. Barbara was shocked. She had never seen Eli without facial hair. And it was like a kick in the stomach. Beards for Amish men represent more than just maturity and appearance. In the Amish community, a married man never shaves his beard. This acts as a symbol of the relationship, and the longer it grows, the more respect is given to men who have stayed faithful for so long. When Barbara saw Eli without a beard, it signified to her that he had been unfaithful and had no intention of salvaging their marriage.


During this time, Eli was living with a non-Amish girlfriend. She was kind enough to offer him a place to stay when he had almost no money or connections outside of the Amish community. Even during this time, Eli continued to see Barb Raber when she was able to get away from her family, and they continued to foster their illicit affair.


When Barbara Weaver was invited to a wedding of a close friend of Eli’s, she hoped that he would show up at the ceremony. Barbara thought that it would be an opportunity to talk to Eli. She kept her eye on the back of the church and felt her prayers had been answered when she saw her husband standing there. Eli was forced to remain at the back of the church – this is what happens if you walk out on your wife, family and church. 

As soon as she saw a gap, Barbara went over to talk with him. There was something familiar between them, and both Eli and Barbara fell just a little bit back in love as they reminisced what they once had. In the heat of the moment, Eli made a clumsy attempt at apologising to Barbara for the hurt and pain he caused her by chasing his childlike ambitions and promised to return to her and the children to atone for his mistakes. Barbara, who had been dreaming of this moment for so long, forgave Eli with hopes that this was their chance to fix what had been broken. 


By the end of January 2007, Eli was back home with Barbara and making amends to the elders in the community. As the Amish church made the decision to forgive him, they forced Eli to turn over his electronic devices and swear to stop his adventures with any women outside of his marriage. Eli gave his word to both his wife and the church. 


But less than a year later, Eli’s gave in to temptation once more. Like some years before, he became withdrawn and moody at home. The only thing Eli Weaver had on his mind was sex. So, even though Eli was back home, he had checked out emotionally. He was distant from his wife and children, often leaving them alone for days at a time and refused to connect with them. Although Eli had left his long-term girlfriend, he was still entangled with taxi driver Barb Raber. 


By 2009, Barbara and Eli were back to where they had started. Their marriage was messy, and the two couldn’t keep it together well enough to raise their children and abide by the church rules. Eli had his hands on more electronics, and messaged women online to satisfy his uncontrollable urges. This time around, Eli was on a different dating site, exploring all the same as before. He was able to keep this under the radar while sneaking out to hook up with dozens of women while still remaining a part of the Amish community. 


But there was more at play than only cheating. Behind his contemptuous eyes, Eli was nurturing thoughts of killing Barbara. He had been thinking about it for some time, but the problem was doing it without being caught. Ideally, he wanted to get out of the marriage, but remain the community, so he could continue to run his hunting store. And seeing as divorce wasn’t an option, becoming a widower was the best way forward.  

One gloomy afternoon, Eli had decided he had yet again dealt with enough marriage problems and that he was finally going to leave. This afternoon, Eli crushed a large amount of sleeping pills, and mixed it into a can of pop. He waited, patiently, for his wife to return from outside. Just as he had planned, when Barbara entered, she asked him for a sip of his nice cool drink. He agreed and thought that would take care of her. 

Unfortunately for him, he had used too many pills and Barbara noticed the taste was off. She realised what was happening, and before she could accuse him of anything, Eli told her he was trying to kill himself. Barbara believed him. She took pity on him and prayed with him, asking that Eli would move past his suicidal intentions. During this moment of closeness, he took the opportunity to admit to Barbara that he had been sleeping with countless outside women. Barbara did not want to lose him again and decided to forgive him.  


Not long after admitting to his infidelities, Eli continued his correspondence with Barb Raber. Barb and Eli discussed their family situation for some time, unsure of what they could do be together. Eli asked Barb if she would do him the favour of killing his wife so he could escape from the marriage without losing the support of his Amish community. He couldn’t divorce her, of course, but if she murdered, they would surely support him moving on to find another true love. 


From May 31 to June 2, 2009, Eli and Barb exchanged various text messages about the best possible way to commit the murder without leaving evidence behind or raising suspicions. Eli suggested blowing up his own house, shooting his wife, poisoning her, among other things. Barb pointed out that if he burnt down the family home, his kids would also end up dead. Eli didn’t seem to care and replied that he believed they would go to heaven since they were innocent of sin, so killing them would do no harm. He was willing to end the lives of his own children if that was what it took to kill Barbara. Barb thought there were other ways of taking care of Barbara and took her own time to search for suitable methods on the internet. She messaged Eli to say that she believed fly poison inside a spiced cupcake would get the job done. 


Around 8 AM on the morning of June 2, 2009, Barbara and Eli’s oldest son, Wayne, wandered around the house, looking for his mother. She was usually an early riser, and he found it odd that she wasn’t awake. He found his mother’s lifeless body, under the comforter in her bed, covered in blood. Wayne ran to the neighbours to find help and brought them back home with him. Eli had left the house earlier that morning, at around 3:30 AM, for a fishing trip and was away when his wife’s body was discovered. The neighbour called police, who arrived moments later, and found Barbara with a shotgun wound to her chest. 


Almost immediately, the police searched for Eli and requested his whereabouts at the time of death. His friends on the fishing trip served as his collective alibi, proving that Eli could not have been anywhere near the home that morning. A shocked Eli denied any involvement in the crime against his wife, but even with his friends vouching for his wherabouts, he remained a prime suspect in the case. Police interviewed Barbara’s sister Kristin, and she informed investigators about Eli’s rocky past and his affairs. Kristin was sure that the rumors about Eli seeking out lovers from outside of the Amish community once more, were true. 


After the murder, Eli received an anonymous message on his contraband phone. On the other end of the line was a voice he didn’t recognise telling him he was the intended victim and that they had made a mistake by finding his wife – but sure enough, they told him he would be next. 

Police were concerned for Eli’s safety and questioned him again. They wanted to know if Eli had any enemies who might have been interested in harming him or his family. Almost immediately, Eli mentioned a girlfriend he had recently dated from the English world – a woman named Mary. He told police that Mary had gone as far as to joke about killing Barbara Weaver before and that he suspected she could have gone through with it. 

Police tracked Mary down and were not overly surprised to hear her side of the story. According to Mary, Eli had asked her to kill his wife before, and he had even made jokes about running her over in his own driveway if he ever got the chance. 


But this would not be enough to convict Eli for his wife’s murder, and investigators knew it. Police had limited evidence about Barbara’s death. There was no weapon at the scene, and no signs of forced entry. No one had heard a gunshot that morning – not the kids inside the home, nor the neighbours. The lack of gunshot residue on Barbara’s hands also proved that she did not shoot herself. The rest of the house was tidy and untouched, which made it unlikely that the scene was a robbery gone wrong. There was only one conclusion to be made – someone had planned to kill Barbara. The coroner could only provide a broad timeline, and the time of death was ruled as sometime between the hours of midnight and six AM.


Not long after the case was turned into public news, other witnesses and contacts of Eli then came forward and offered more information. A woman by the name of Dandi Heasley reached out to authorities to tell them she had dated Eli for a brief time not too long before. They had met online, and he had even reached out to her through a cell phone. This was the single piece of the story that piqued interest in the police – if Eli had a secret cell phone, there must be more evidence hiding on it somewhere. All they had to do now was find it. 


Only one day after Barbara was found dead in her own house, Eli Weaver and Barb Raber were both arrested for aggravated murder, even with the lack of physical evidence. Police still had no murder weapon, and no fingerprints were found inside Barbara’s bedroom. Barb Raber was brought in uncontrollably sobbing, claiming the entire incident was an accident. 


While she was going through a mental break, she told her side of the story. Barb claimed she had taken a gun from her husband’s closet but had no memory of loading it with ammunition. She then made her way to the Weaver’s family home, which she believed she entered at around 4:30 AM and made her way through the basement and up to the master bedroom, where she found Barbara Weaver asleep in bed. Barb wanted to scare Barbara, just pretend to hold the gun up at her and give her a fright, but the gun went off, and Barbara was killed instantly. 


As both accused individuals went to court, Barb changed her story of the night Barbara was murdered. She later claimed she had no memory at all of what happened that morning; she could not even remember being inside the Weaver house at all. Her attorney went as far as to argue that Eli had shot his wife before he left for the fishing trip with his friends. 


In addition to the fatal gunshot wound, Barbara was found to have multiple other scratches and bruises across her body that went to prove she was a victim of domestic violence. The artifacts were used as evidence to conclude that Eli had been violent with her before and was likely involved with her murder, even if he didn’t pull the trigger. 


During the investigation, police learned that Eli had, in fact, reached out to multiple people asking for help to kill his wife. Most of them laughed it off, assuming he could not possibly mean something so cruel, but Barb Raber did not. The evidence pointed to a clearly planned murder, with the text messages and search history from both individuals to prove it. 

Text messages between Barb and Eli give a macabre insight into Barbara’s murder. 

Around 4:30 AM Barb texted Eli: I’m so scared, what if I get caught? What if someone blames me?

Eli responds: Who would see you? And who would blame you?

Barb then types: Damn, Eli, I don’t know if I can. It’s too scary.

Eli disregards her concerns and answers: The bottom door is open.

Then the last desperate text from Barb: I just don’t want to lose you.

To the prosecution it was clear that Barb was at the house, while Eli was with his friends. His friends testified that he acted strangely that morning and kept looking into his pocket. Of course, not having access to cell phones, no one thought he was communicating with someone. Barb is scared of doing something, and Eli pushes her to go through with it. And all of this only hours before Barbara is found deceased in her bed.

During the trial, Eli sat with the community lawyer. Andy Hyde, the lawyer for nearly all the Amish people in the area, had quite a say about the disgruntled couple. As Eli’s representative, Andy sifted through pages of evidence, many of which were the letters written to Eli from Barbara expressing herself. Andy, a lawyer nearly twenty years in the making, wasn’t even able to keep his calm composure as he read through the heartfelt letters. As one of the only times in his entire career that a case affected him emotionally, this was a case he would surely never forget. Eli had been the only man Barbara ever loved. She had no idea of the scope of infidelity that her husband had occupied himself with over the years. Not even Andy was convinced of Eli’s innocence.


The trial resulted in Barb Raber being found guilty of aggravated murder and sentenced to life in prison. She will be eligible for parole in 2032. Eli agreed to take a plea deal, where he exchanged a guilty charge of complicity to commit murder for testifying against Raber in court and was only given 15 years.


This crime of passion shook the entire community. It even brought forward many issues that are present with the Amish standards today, like the inability to hold domestic abusers accountable for their actions. Cases like this serve as a landmark for what could, or should, be changed in the future to prevent a crime like this taking place in future. Eli was clearly torn between a simple Amish life with the support of his childhood friends and family and a life outside, free from the restraints he felt from the church ruling over him. 


In the more than 250 years the Amish community has been living inside the United States, this was only the third occurrence of a proven domestic murder. Although this is true, to some extent, the Amish prefer to keep their matters to themselves and typically will refuse to bring in outside help. This goes the same for help from psychiatrists and psychologists, which explains why Barbara Weaver was unable to receive help for what she was going through when it was early enough to do so. If she had been able to get help, maybe her fate would have turned out differently. 


Eli has made himself available online again, on – he says he’s looking for someone to talk to, as it gets rather lonely in prison. He describes himself as a small-town country boy and an avid outdoorsman. Soon he will be out of prison – in 2024 to be exact, and aged 44. He has yet to show any remorse for his part in taking his children’s mother from them in such an unforgiving manner. People know him as the Amish stud who convinced his lover to murder his wife. But let’s not tap into the sensation of the unusual story, and rather remember Barbara – the embodiment of a loving wife and mother – with respect. Respect she never received from her husband with a temporary beard and a roving eye.

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