Then last fall, a local milkman named Charles Roberts walked into a one-room Amish schoolhouse in a small Lancaster town called Nickel Mines and held 10 young girls hostage before opening fire on them, killing five and wounding five, before shooting himself to death.
"The coroner of Lancaster County used to be a part-time job taken by a general practitioner who did it sort of on the side," Lancaster County coroner Gary Kirchner told ABC News. "We've gone way beyond that."
Kirchner said the Haines murders are as troubling and unexpected as the Amish schoolhouse shooting.
"The thing that attracts the human mind are contrasts," he said. "Here is a gorgeous fall day ... beautiful fields, great clear blue skies. And in the middle of all of it sits a humble, one-room Amish schoolhouse, trashed and bloodied and with bodies in it. That is what the human mind has trouble getting around. We've been subjected to that contrast over and over again here in Lancaster."
Kirchner declined to comment on either the crime scene or his preliminary conclusions, but indicated the depth of violence when he said the Haines murders were "another level of horror.
"Does this have the markings of a psychotic killer? Sure, it's got a lot of the markings of a psychotic killer," Kirchner said.
There was no apparent robbery or any clear motivation for such a violent series of attacks, he said. But police say they have no clear motive or suspect yet and no reason to concur with the coroner's speculation. Rudzinski added that he strongly disagrees with Kirchner.
"We have not drawn that conclusion from the information we have,'' Rudzinski said.
Kirchner said that besides the Amish schoolhouse shooting, these killings are the "worst I've seen" since he was a naval officer in Vietnam.
"I was a surgeon for 38 years, and a trauma surgeon for 10 of those," he said. "When I took this job, I never thought it would be anything like this. Nobody in the county can believe this sort of thing would happen here. The people of Lancaster are scared out of their wits."
Marcie Brody, a spokeswoman for the Manheim Township School District, where victim Kevin Haines was a well-regarded quiz champion, agreed.
The students are "shocked, they're terrified, and they're in the middle of final exams," she said, referring to the high school students.
Of the approximately 5,500 students in the district schools, 1,750 attend Manheim High School.
"We're telling them they're definitely safe coming to school, and we're finding out they feel safe at school," she said. "It's just when they're home at night."
Brody said extra guidance counselors and security were brought in to the schools since the homicides, and that experts are working with parents to identify signs of trauma in the children.
"It's the community itself, not just the students. Everybody's still on edge."
She said she's even gotten calls from community residents unaffiliated with the school, seeking out guidance counselors and other mental health professionals.
Local security firms are feeling the impact too.
"We've been slammed," said Patrick Egan, president of Select Security and former president of the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association. "Our sales for residential security systems are up about 800 percent. We normally do four or five residential systems a week, but we've sold 35 to 40 systems in the last two weeks.