CONNERSVILLE, Ind. – An Amish man who sent more than 600 text messages that included lewd images to a 12-year-old girl he randomly dialed was arrested when he arrived in his horse and buggy for what he thought was a meeting for sex, police said.
Willard Yoder, 26, faces four counts of child solicitation after being arrested June 15 in his hometown of Milroy, about 45 miles southeast of Indianapolis. A not guilty plea was entered on his behalf during his initial hearing Friday.
Connersville police Detective Craig Pennington said authorities set up the meeting after the girl's mother alerted them her daughter was getting text messages from someone she didn't know. Pennington said the girl turned her cellphone over to her mother and the mother acted as if she were the girl.
"The mother made sure this person understood that this girl was 12 years old," Pennington said.
Pennington said the messages started out innocent, but eventually the man texting wrote that he was a 21-year-old Amish man named Willard and asked the girl if she were horny, to send naked pictures of herself and asked if she wanted to "make out."
Pennington said the man continued to send texts and the mother turned the cellphone over to police. He said the cellphone was turned over to Indiana State Police who found at least 600 text messages were sent, including requests for nude photos and asking if she wanted to meet to have sex.
Pennington said Yoder also sent five pictures and two videos to the girl's cellphone, some of which included naked photos of him.
Police then used the cellphone to set up the meeting.
Pennington said although Yoder was apprehended in Rush County, he was charged in Fayette County because the girl lives in Connersville. Court records don't list an attorney for Yoder. He is scheduled to appear in court July 1 with an attorney.
Pennington said Yoder confessed to the sending the video messages, naked pictures and lewd text messages. Yoder told police he randomly dialed the girl's number.
"He says he just punched in the number hoping to have a conversation with someone," he said. "He said it was random. Everything else he said seemed to be true. But I'll find out more after his phone is forensically examined."
Jerry Beasley, director of the Menno-Hof, a nonprofit information center in Shipshewana in northern Indiana that teaches visitors about the Amish and Mennonite, said it's unusual for Amish to use either cellphones or landlines in their homes, but some do use community phones. They also have phones at their businesses and use cellphones for business, he said.
"The idea is they don't want to introduce the phones into the homes because they don't want it to detract from family life. As you might imagine, if they had the phone inside they would spend time on the phone and in their mind take away from the family time," he said.
Yoder was released on a $20,000 bond on June 17. The horse and buggy were released to Yoder's family.
Pennington said the girl and her family handled the situation perfectly, saying they locked the messages instead of deleting them and turned the cellphone over to police.
"It was good communication between the girl and her mother and the mother not being afraid to turn that directly over to the police department," he said.