An investigation into sexual abuse in the Amish community has resulted in charges against an 80-year-old Tennessee man, as investigators battle language and cultural barriers in a quest to find more victims willing to come forward.
Maurice Dale "Jimmy" McAllister, 80, who is not Amish, was indicted Wednesday on 13 counts stemming from the sexual abuse of four women and one man who are members of the Giles County Amish community.
The victims were between the ages of 12 and 22 at the time of the abuse, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The alleged abuse happened for seven years.
"He lives in the same area as the victims and knew them from living in the same community," said Kristin Helm, spokesperson for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
It is not uncommon for the Amish to do work for people who live outside their community, Helm said, explaining how McAllister knew the alleged victims.
McAllister was arrested on May 1 on three initial charges of aggravated rape, sexual battery and aggravated burglary. Ten additional charges were listed as a result of the ongoing investigation.
A 23-year-old Amish woman testified at a preliminary hearing in May that McAllister began abusing her when she was 14 years old and threatened to kill her if she told anyone, local media reported.
Police were first alerted by someone outside the Amish community who heard rumors of the alleged abuse. Helm said said that information was passed on to the district attorney's office, which in turn asked the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to look into the case.
Investigators believe there could be more victims, however the tight-knit Amish are often reluctant to get involved in legal affairs, which can create a challenge, Helm said.
"It's very difficult. There's sometimes a language barrier, a cultural barrier," Helm said. "Our agent is being diligent and we're hoping any additional victims will come forward."
McAllister's bond was raised to $2.25 million after the additional charges were filed.
The investigation is ongoing and McAllister could face additional charges, Helm said.