By Jesse Wood
Jan. 2, 2013. In a very bizarre and frightening four-hour home invasion, a former Lees-McRae College student snapped and attacked three elderly Mennonite women near his old Pennsylvania hometown one week before Christmas.
The women were between 84 and 90 years of age, and the assailant, Dereck Taylor Holt, was 22 and formerly of the Mennonite faith, according to police reports.
Holt enrolled into Lees-McRae College in the fall of 2008 as a student athlete to study philosophy and race on the Lees-McRae Bobcats cycling team. He graduated from high school not far away from Clay Township, where the assault took place.
According to the Northern Lancaster Regional Police Department, Holt approached the residence, posing as an insurance salesman on the morning of Dec. 14. Only two women were present initially.
After conversing with the two women, he then used a “stun gun” to repeatedly shock the victims, leaving them incapacitated. Then he bound the hands and feet of the victims and covered their faces.
The suspect then ransacked the home, looking for cash and other valuables and poured household chemicals all over the furnishings and flooring of the house.
But while he was doing all of this in a blue suit with a yellow tie, Holt spoke to the victims and “indicated a ‘rage’ towards the members of the Mennonite faith,” according to the police report. He read several passages from the bible in the home and then vandalized the bible.
Soon, the third woman arrived at the home and was subsequently attacked and restrained in the same manner as the other two victims. All three victims remained bound and incapacitated for approximately four hours until Holt fled the scene in a blue Dodge Durango. Several hours after Holt fled, a relative found the victims still bound in the home.
Holt told law enforcement officials that he was a previous member of the Mennonite faith and has anger towards that faith. The police department stated that the evidence suggests that the old ladies were targeted solely because of their faith.
Holt is detained at Lancaster County Prison on $1 million bond and charged with 8 felonies and 13 misdemeanors. The victims were transported to the Ephrata Hospital for treatment of the injuries sustained during the home invasion and assault.
According to the Lancaster Intelligence Journal, this crime was described as “one of the most heinous crimes that didn’t result in a homicide” by the Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman.
“I’ve been doing this for 20 years,” he said. “To say that I’m shocked by this – we’re all shocked by this – is an understatement.”
Holt’s sister also told the publication that she was shocked as well. A few days before the invasion, Holt and her sister Hannah met for lunch.
She said Holt was “happy and excited” as he prepared to move from Arizona, where they lived with their mother, back to the Lancaster area to spend time with his father.
“He was just normal Dereck — if anything, more positive than usual,” Hannah Holt said.
She was particularly befuddled at the rage towards Mennonites.
“That’s why this is so hard for me,” she said. “This isn’t something anyone could have expected. Nothing about this makes sense.”
She did add, though, that he was recently prescribed “social-anxiety medication.”
Dereck Taylor Holt has been charged with the following offenses:
- Aggravated Assault –Three Counts – Graded as a felony of the first degree.
- Simple Assault –Three Counts – Graded as a misdemeanor of the first degree
- Recklessly Endangering another Person – Three Counts – Graded as a misdemeanor of the second degree
- Ethnic Intimidation – Three Counts – Graded as a felony of the third degree
- Unlawful Restraint – Three Counts – Graded as a misdemeanor of the first degree
- False Imprisonment – Three Counts – Graded as a misdemeanor of the second degree
- Robbery – One Count – Graded as a felony of the first degree
- Burglary – One Count – Graded as a felony of the first degree
- Theft by Unlawful Taking or Disposition – One Count – Graded as a misdemeanor of the second degree