Faith under attack Elderly Mennonites still recovering from ethnic assault
He posed as an insurance salesman to gain access to their home, and then unleashed his anger toward Mennonites on three elderly women.
He incapacitated them with a stun gun, punched them in the face, destroyed their Bibles, and bound and gagged his victims before fleeing the scene. That’s just a summary, taken from a long criminal complaint, of what happened in Clay Township on Dec. 14.
Northern Lancaster County Regional Police arrested Dereck Taylor Holt, 22, of no fixed address, at 6 p.m. Dec. 15 in association with the previously mentioned home invasion and robbery that occurred at 9 a.m. in the 300 block of Indiantown Road.
Three women between the ages of 84 and 90 remain hospitalized after being assaulted. Police were notified Dec. 14 at 4:23 p.m. after a relative had discovered the women bound and restrained inside the home, which had been ransacked. Household chemicals were used to cover flooring, furniture and other surfaces within the home.
Holt approached the residence and posed as a salesman, wearing a suit and tie, in order to gain access to the home. After he entered, he engaged in conversation with two of the victims who were present. A sufficient period of time elapsed before Holt determined how many occupants were in the home, and then he attacked the two occupants by using an electronic incapacitation device, commonly referred to as a "stun gun" or "cattle prod," to repeatedly shock the victims, and using his hands to strike the victims.
Holt then restrained both victims using tape to bind their hands and feet, as well as taking other actions to cover the victims’ faces.
He then began to ransack the home, seeking cash and other valuables. During this process, Holt spoke with the victims several times and indicated a "rage" directed toward the members of the Mennonite faith. He read various passages from the Bible and then vandalized the Bible used by the household members.
As the attack was underway, a third victim arrived at the home and was attacked and restrained by Holt in the same manner. All of the victims remained bound and incapacitated for approximately four hours after the suspect left the home and subsequently fled the scene in a blue Dodge Durango.
Responding patrol officers secured the crime scene, and emergency medical services were requested to provide assistance for the treatment of the victims. As an essential part of the initial crime scene response it was necessary to have the victims transported to the Ephrata Community Hospital for treatment of injuries sustained during the assault. To assist in both maximizing the information available to medical providers who were treating the victims and to insure the safety of officers involved in the investigation and forensic processing of the scene, it was necessary to have the assistance of the Lancaster County Hazardous Materials Team. The team provided a risk assessment of the chemicals that were spread throughout the home by the intruder.
Holt later indicated he was a previous member of the Mennonite faith and has anger toward the church since leaving the faith.
Police have contacted local Mennonite faith leaders to insure awareness of potential targeting of the members of the faith to the community. At this time, police have developed no evidence to suggest that the three victims were targeted as individuals, but were targeted because of their faith.
At one point, according to the filed criminal complaint, one of the victims was singing a hymn while bound, and was punched in the face by Holt. This caused traumatic injury to the region of the victim’s left eye. Other reported injuries included a brain bleed and a fractured shoulder, and one of the victims suffered a heart attack during the ordeal.
Lititz police were able to help locate the suspect due to an unrelated domestic situation between Holt and his father, who reportedly lives in Lititz. Chief William Seace recognized the work of Lititz officer Steven Detz during Tuesday night’s borough council meeting.
Holt has been arrested on the following charges: aggravated assault; simple assault; recklessly endangering another person; ethnic intimidation; unlawful restraint; false imprisonment; robbery; burglary; and theft by unlawful taking or disposition.
Holt is currently being held at the Lancaster County Prison in lieu of $1 million dollars bail. More INVASION, page A22