WOOSTER -- Two Amish denied charges they allegedly forced their way into a home and restrained two residents, instead claiming they were engaged in "tomcatting."
Sylvanus L. Hershberger, 18, 4165 S. Elyria Road, and Leah S. Hershberger, 3165 Blachleyville Road, have both denied charges of felony trespassing into a human habitation, in Wayne County Municipal Court.
They have posted their bonds, as of Tuesday, and are facing preliminary hearings June 6 and June 8, respectively.
Another man and a juvenile were listed as co-defendants in court documents, but have not yet been charged.
Capt. Doug Hunter said Wayne County Sheriff's deputies were called to a residence on the 1700 block of Brenn Road in Plain Township early Sunday morning after 3 a.m.
Two residents claimed several individuals showed up to their home in Amish buggies playing loud music and yelling obscenities, according to court documents.
The suspects allegedly smashed a window to a backdoor and ransacked the home, Hunter said, after tying up two of the occupants -- a man and woman. Several items throughout the house were thrown around, the outside was damaged, as was a buggy and horse barn.
Hunter said the suspects fled the area on foot but were located the next day, as they were known to the victims.
Hunter added the suspects claimed they were engaged in an Amish ritual dubbed "tomcatting," or "scouting" toward the occupants. The phrase is used in certain Amish communities and aimed at Amish couples who are dating.
"But their actions definitely crossed the line," Hunter said, adding that the victims themselves also agreed with that sentiment. "They were frightened for their safety."
Hunter said people often think members of the Amish community can be "terrorized" without fear of criminal charges. But he said over the past few years, the sheriff's office has seen an increase in people willing to report this type of behavior.
Reporter Steven F. Huszai can be reached at 330-287-1645 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He is @GeneralSmithie on Twitter.