Adults Charged With Felonious Assault; Juvenile Charges Pending Investigation
Three adult men and a 17-year-old male were arrested Saturday around noon for allegedly attacking Amish in two separate incidents in an attempt to rob them, according to Geauga County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Scott Hildenbrand.
Chase Kontur, 19, of Middlefield Township, Gerald Wise, 19, of Cleveland, and Christopher Barnett, 18, of Middlefield Township, were charged with felonious assault. Charges for the juvenile, also of Middlefield Township, are pending investigation.
The arrests ended what appears to have been a two-month-long breaking-and-entering spree on Amish businesses, he said.
The homeless suspects told deputies they had been sleeping during the day in area parks and driving around the Amish community at night, scoping out and breaking into businesses, Hildenbrand said during a press conference Monday afternoon.
The suspects mistakenly believed the Amish business owners wouldn’t report the crimes to the sheriff, he said.
“They couldn’t even name all the businesses they broke into,” Hildenbrand said, but the sheriff has eight reports on file including one non-Amish church.
He said the department would like to hear from any other victims of the four while they are building cases for their prosecution.
The assaults apparently began about 11:30 p.m. June 22 in Trumbull County when the four men disguised in hoodies and bandanas passed an Amish buggy and parked in a driveway.
The suspects waited by the road with baseball bats, then attacked the buggy and the people inside, demanding money, Hildenbrand said.
The second attack with the same strategy occurred about 3 a.m. last Monday on Nauvoo Road in Middlefield Township, during which an Amish man in the buggy suffered a bruised elbow and leg, Hildenbrand said.
According to the sheriff’s report, the incident involved an Amish man, his son and nephew, who were traveling via horse and buggy through the area of Nauvoo and Bundysburg roads when four males wearing masks and carrying bats swung at them.
“My son has a lump on his elbow, but does not need a rescue squad,” the Amish man said in the report.
At about 4 p.m. June 23, another attack was reported from earlier that day involving an Amish couple traveling via horse and buggy on Peters Road, according to the sheriff’s report.
The couple reportedly saw several men wearing masks and chasing after their buggy.
At that time, the driver of the buggy urged the horse to a faster pace and escaped the ambush, Hildenbrand said Monday.
On June 28, the sheriff’s office received a tip that some young men had been bragging about beating up some Amish people, he said.
“It appeared they enjoyed it,” he said. “They were definitely targeting Amish.”
Pictures of the buggies showed several large dents.
“They were swinging the bats pretty heavy — they were intending to hurt them,” Hildenbrand said.
Thanks to the tip, they found the green 1999 Corolla parked at Headwaters Park on Old State Road in Middlefield Township, he said.
One of the four was asleep in the back seat. When a drug-sniffing K-9 hit on the vehicle, deputies found one suspect, some marijuana and coin rolling papers. The others were found camping in the park and all were arrested, Hildenbrand said.
Two of the adult suspects were uncooperative, he said, but one seemed relieved to be stopped.
More charges are pending, Hildenbrand said.
“Even though it’s a small amount, we need (other victims) to contact us so we can put this together for this case,” he said.
Monday morning, Barnett, Wise and Kontur appeared in Chardon Municipal Court before visiting Judge William Kubelak.
The judge set bond for Kontur at $75,000, cash or surety, and $40,000 cash or surety for Wise and Barnett.
An attorney temporarily appointed by the court asked the judge to consider the 10 percent rule, but Kubelak refused.
“This whole matter is serious,” he said. “It has a lot of negative sides to it.”
Hildenbrand said Monday afternoon none of the adult suspects had bonded out and all were still incarcerated at the Geauga County Safety Center.
The juvenile is at the Portage County Juvenile Detention Center. He did not know when any of them would have another court date, but emphasized the need to hear from any other victims who suspect the four-person gang may be responsible.
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