When Amish housewife Barbara Weaver was found shot to death on June 2, 2009, the conservative Christian community where she lived in Apple Creek, Ohio, began whispering two names to investigators: Eli Weaver, her husband of 10 years, and Barbara “Barb” Raber, a Mennonite taxi driver for the Amish and one of the many women with whom he’d been having an affair.
About a week later, both were arrested and charged with aggravated murder.
Raber was convicted and sentenced to 23 years to life in September 2009. She is serving her sentence at the Ohio Reformatory for Women and will be eligible for parole in June 2032.
Eli Weaver took a plea deal and was convicted of complicity to commit murder after testifying against Raber. He is serving 15 years to life at Grafton Correctional Institution in Ohio and will be eligible for parole in June 2024.
[Sign in to stream Amish Stud: The Eli Weaver Story in the Lifetime app.]
“This really shook the community,” author Rebecca Morris tells A&E True Crime. “It was a rare murder among the Amish in America. In the past 250 years, only three murders had been committed by spouses, including two cases of men killing their wives.”
A ‘Super Nice’ Woman
The Weavers had five young children and a troubled marriage by Eli Weaver, who owned a hunting store, says Morris, who co-authored with Gregg Olsen the book, A Killing in Amish Country: Sex, Betrayal, and a Cold-blooded Murder.
Calling himself “Amish Stud” in an online chat room where he met women, Eli Weaver left his wife twice to live as “English” outside the Amish community, only to go back home within a few months, Morris says.
There are four main Amish groups—the Old Order, the New Order, the Beachy Amish and Amish Mennonite—and each group has different subgroups. Rules around dress, use of technology, etc. vary among the groups. Eli and Barbara Weaver were a part of the Andy Weaver Amish, a conservative subgroup of Old Order Amish. The group doesn’t allow use of computers, the internet or cell phones. However, Eli Weaver did have a secret cell phone, which he used to communicate on a mobile social network.
“Eli found that life outside was hard. He had to figure out how to make a living. I think he wasn’t mature enough to handle life and responsibilities and marriage,” Morris says. “And had no conscience, clearly.”
It appears the Weavers had a happy marriage in the beginning, she says. But later, in letters written to a counselor, Barbara Weaver wrote, “Where did my friend, love, trustworthy husband go to? He hates me to the core.”
Neighbor Mary Eicher, also a Mennonite taxi driver for the Amish, tells A&E True Crime she met Barbara Weaver in 2006, when she and her children moved into a small rental house next door. A few weeks later, Eli Weaver joined them.
Over the next three years, Eicher and Barbara Weaver saw each other every other week or so. Often, Eicher says, she would take the Amish woman grocery shopping into town or would get a list of items she needed.
“Barbara was a very friendly, sociable person. She was kind of laid back but super nice. A gentle soul,” Eicher says. “Eli was very outgoing. He would often come over fairly late in the evening and ask for a ride, and he was very considerate, he would apologize for interrupting me. He had charm.”
But the couple had problems, like Eli Weaver withholding money from his wife, Eicher says. “I had given my number as a contact for her doctor,” she recalls. “One time, I took my portable phone to her after I got a message, and I overheard her saying on the phone, ‘We will be paying as soon as we can.'” Eli Weaver’s sister said his business was doing fine.
In a patriarchal community like the Amish, women are encouraged to stick with their husbands and never badmouth them, Morris says. “The whole, ‘If you see something, say something’…doesn’t happen in closed communities like this,” Morris says. “People keep secrets…even if Eli didn’t do a very good job of that.”
Investigators found out that, in the months before the murder, Eli Weaver had asked several people to kill his wife, but wasn’t taken seriously. Raber, however, was open to the idea.
The two exchanged text messages discussing how to get rid of Barbara Weaver, and Raber performed 840 Internet searches on poisoning, Morris says. “They talked about poisoning a cupcake, poisoning her soda, putting rat poison in something…and finally just decided it would be a rifle, her husband’s rifle,” she says.
On the day of her murder, Eli Weaver had been fishing with friends. Raber, who was married with three children, didn’t have an alibi.
Raber—whose prints were not found in the Weaver house—told investigators that she’d only intended to scare Barb Weaver, but the gun went off. Later, she said she didn’t remember being in the house at all. Her attorney argued in court that Eli Weaver shot his wife before he went fishing at 3:30 a.m.
Eli Weaver was adept at manipulating Raber, with whom he had sexual encounters in her car and his barn, Morris says. Raber procured him a laptop, which he used to meet women and a cell phone, which he used to plot his wife’s murder, Morris says.
So why didn’t Weaver just leave her?
“If she died, he could more easily navigate both lives,” Morris says, referring to his Amish life and his promiscuity. As a widower, “he would have been embraced [by the Amish]. He could still have his business, and he would most likely send his children to live with Barbara Weaver’s sister, who did raise the children in the end.”
Eli Weaver’s attorney, Andrew Hyde, put it this way: “If he had left, he would have been shunned. If his wife is dead, they pat him on the back.” Hyde, now a municipal court judge in Ohio’s Holmes County, did not return a request for comment from A&E True Crime.
What’s Life Like in Prison for Eli Weaver?
Grafton Correctional Institution, where Eli Weaver is housed, is an all-male minimum-to-medium-security facility that opened in 1988. It has a capacity for 1,234 inmates; as of March 2023, it housed a population of 1651.
The facility has a veterans’ unit, a faith-based unit and a reintegration center. There are educational programs ranging from adult basic literacy to bachelor’s degrees, plus a variety of apprenticeships, career technical education and community service opportunities.
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has no rule infraction documentation regarding Eli Weaver, and religious accommodation documentation is not released publicly, spokeswoman JoEllen Smith tells A&E True Crime in response to a request for information filed under the Freedom of Information Act.
Eli Weaver was moved around several times in the last 14 years, documents show.
He has held a variety of prison jobs over the years, documents show food service worker, material handler, trash crew worker, plumber, program aide, reception worker and maintenance repair worker. His most recent job was as a porter.
Morris says she wrote to Eli Weaver in prison but got no response. However, Weaver has written to his parents, who “have washed their hands of him,” she says. At one point, he managed to have an ad printed in an Amish newsletter saying he was hoping to meet women as pen pals, she says.
Eicher, who still lives in the area, says the Weaver children seem to be doing well.
According to Eicher, a few months ago, two of them visited their father in prison, where he is the leader of a work group. “They are very private people,” she says. “They feel really ashamed of what happened, and they really don’t want to talk about it with outsiders.”
If Eli Weaver were to be released on parole, he would be shunned by the community, Eicher and Morris says.
“Barbara [Weaver] was like the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31… She was just a very good person to be around,” Eicher says. “It makes it all the more heartbreaking that he would do such a thing to her.”
Morris agrees, adding, “The only mystery is why he thought he could get away with this.”