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The Amish live a life free of most of the conveniences of the modern world, like cell phones, television, and cars. They also live a life with very little violent crime, which is why the murder of Barbara Weaver, a devoted Amish woman, quickly made nationwide headlines -- and generated even more after the shocking culprits were unmasked.
On June 2, 2009, a call was made to emergency dispatch in Wayne County, Ohio from a woman who said she had found her neighbor, 30-year-old Barbara Weaver, unresponsive at home after Barbara's children contacted her for help.
"No. I don't think she's breathing,” the neighbor tells 911 in audio obtained by "Killer Couples," airing Sundays at 8/7c on Oxygen.
When authorities arrived at the scene, they found Barbara dead and covered in blood from a shotgun wound to the chest. There was no weapon nearby and no gunshot residue on her hands. Whatever had happened, it clearly wasn't suicide.
Officials discovered there was no sign of forced entry and that cash had been left out in plain view in several areas of the home, making robbery an unlikely motive. Barbara's husband, Eli Weaver, who owned a hunting and sports equipment store next to their house, was nowhere to be found.
They were able to track him down, though, when they discovered Eli was on a fishing trip with a few friends, one of whom wasn't Amish and had a cell phone. Investigators were thus able to contact Eli and have him come in for questioning right away.
A distraught Eli told police he had nothing to do with the murder, and said he had last seen his wife at 3 a.m. right before he left for his fishing trip. His friends on the trip confirmed his alibi.
However, even with an airtight alibi, Eli remained a suspect after investigators talked with Barbara's sister. She told them Eli and Barbara, who wed very young and shared five children, had a rocky marriage thanks to Eli's history of cheating.
"According to Barbara’s sister, Eli’s infidelity had been a huge problem throughout their entire marriage. In fact, it started back during Eli’s Rumspringa, back when they first started dating. Eli was much wilder than Barbara, always partying, seeing people outside of the Amish faith," Kristin Farley, a former reporter with WATE, told producers.
In fact, Eli had cheated on Barbara twice with women who weren't Amish and temporarily left the marriage, getting shunned from the Amish community and having to ask the elders to let him back in, the sister explained to investigators. Shortly before she was killed, Barbara had even been suspicious Eli was cheating on her again.
He just wanted to dabble in things that were forbidden. He seemed to have a real attraction to things that were forbidden," the Weavers' neighbor Mary Eicher told producers.
As a devoted Amish woman, Barbara didn't consider divorce an option, but she was deeply hurt by the infidelity, those who knew her said. She was also frightened by it.
"She told a friend she wasn't afraid of Eli, but she was afraid of Eli’s girlfriends and that somebody would be so jealous and wanting Eli so much they would harm Barbara," Rebecca Morris, author of "A Killing In Amish Country," told producers.
When questioned again by police, Eli insisted his cheating days were behind him. But while talking to members of the community, they learned there was a possible new woman in his life.
“In the days after Barbara's murder the police got a lot of tips indicating Eli was spending a lot of time with someone referred to as 'the taxi lady,'" Farley told producers.
The so-called "taxi lady" was Barbara Raber, a married mother of three who had grown up in the Amish community but had since left it with her husband to join the Mennonite faith, which is considerably less conservative than the Amish one. Mennonites can own cars and cell phones, for example. Raber was known to work as a driver for the Amish, specifically spending a lot of time with Eli.
Raber admitted to police she had an affair with Eli, but insisted it had ended six months earlier and she had been home with her husband at the time of the murder. Then, new incriminating information was uncovered.
Dandi Heasley contacted police to tell them she had briefly had a relationship with Eli awhile back. They had met on a dating site, where Eli described himself as "Amish stud." He contacted her on a cell phone, which piqued authorities' interest, as the secret phone could reveal much-needed information.
But what also raised red flags for investigators was what Heasley had to say about Eli's attitude toward his wife. According to her, he was deeply unhappy in the marriage and made several comments alluding to wanting to know how to kill someone and getting rid of his wife permanently.
Other women soon reached out, revealing they, too, had had affairs with Eli and he had made strange comments to them about having his wife killed.
To find the secret cell phone, Heasley made a new dating profile to reach out to Eli and ask him to call her. Eli obliged, meaning investigators now had his phone number -- which they were astonished to learn was registered in Raber's name.
After getting a subpoena for the phone records, detectives discovered tons of messages between the two that made it clear they were still together. The messages also made it clear they wanted to get rid of Barbara badly.
Eli and Raber texted often about potential ways to kill Barbara, including a poisoned cupcake, carbon monoxide, and a home explosion, with Eli even dismissing the possibility of his five children dying as collateral damage, insisting it was fine because "they would go straight to heaven," according to copies of the text messages obtained by "Killer Couples."
The night of the murder, Eli texted Barbara directions on where to park outside, told her the door was unlocked, and encouraged her when she expressed fear and possible regret.
On June 10, the pair was arrested. Authorities combed through Rabe's computer, and over 800 searches on how to poison somebody were uncovered.
“You cant play that off as a joke. That's determination," Det. Doyle Burke with the Dayton Police Department told producers.
While Eli refused to talk, Raber admitted she had fallen in love with Eli, who convinced her the only way they could be together was if she killed his wife. She said she crept into Eli and Barbara's home with her husband's shotgun and shot Barbara -- although she insisted she was just trying to scare her and the gun went off accidentally.
Eli, meanwhile, eventually agreed to take a plea deal in exchange for testifying against Raber. He pleased guilty to complicity to commit murder and was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. He will be eligible for parole in 2024 when he is 44 years old.
Raber went to trial, where she was found guilty of aggravated murder and sentenced to life in prison. She will be eligible for parole in 2032.
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