Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
Holt to be tried on 23 charges Accused of beating, torturing 3 elderly Mennonite sisters
BY BRETT HAMBRIGHT, Staff Writer
A 22-year-old man will be tried for binding, beating and torturing three elderly Mennonite sisters last year in what police called a case of "ethnic intimidation."
Dereck Taylor Holt and his attorney, Alan Goldberg, waived a preliminary hearing Tuesday morning on numerous offenses, including felony aggravated assault, robbery, unlawful restraint and reckless endangerment.
In turn, District Judge Tony Russell ordered Holt to be tried on 23 charges related to the Dec. 14 incident in Clay Township.
Holt, locked up on $1 million bail since his arrest Dec. 16, appeared in the Ephrata courtroom only to sign paperwork. He said nothing.
The sisters, ages 84 to 90, were not present.
Assistant District Attorney Christopher Lechner, lead prosecutor, said no plea deals or offers have been made in the case.
Holt, whose address is unknown, also was charged with three counts of felony ethnic intimidating because police allege his motive was the sisters' faith.
Holt entered their home on Indiantown Road by posing as a salesman, then donned a mask and tied up the women, police reported.
He slapped, kicked and punched the women while also abusing them with a stun gun, according to police.
During the two-hour assault, Holt allegedly read passages from the Bible and vandalized the Bible belonging to his victims, police said.
He also combined and spread a variety of household chemicals -- including bleach, vinegar, a pesticide and other cleansers -- throughout the home, creating a hazardous environment for the women who lived there as well as police and medical personnel who responded to the scene.
After ransacking the house, Holt left the women tied up inside, police allege. A relative later came to their aid.
All three women were hospitalized. One suffered a heart attack following the incident, another had a broken shoulder and the third suffered a "brain bleed," or hemorrhage, police reported.
If convicted of all charges, Holt faces maximum prison penalties that would span his life.
Holt didn't admit to the crimes Tuesday, but by waiving the hearing he conceded there is enough evidence to warrant charges.
A trial likely will be held later this year.