Lifetime’s ‘Amish Stud: The Eli Weaver Story’ is a film that delves into the intriguing narrative of Eli Weaver, a 23-year-old member of the Amish community whose wife is tragically found dead. As the investigation into her murder unfolds, it uncovers a web of complexity, exploring the themes of love and frustration. The film was released on September 30th and offers viewers a compelling and thought-provoking narrative that looks into the intricacies of Amish life and relationships while also unraveling the mystery surrounding Barbara Weaver’s death.
Directed by Stacey N. Harding, the film shines a spotlight on a rare and unusual crime within the Amish community. Despite looking into this uncommon subject matter, the film succeeds in maintaining an unbiased and objective perspective on a community that has sometimes been misunderstood or dismissed by mainstream society. What sets the film apart is its authenticity and honesty, which resonate with the audience and it encourages audiences to look beyond religious affiliations and see the common humanity that binds us all. The intriguing storyline leaves us pondering whether there is any truth to the narrative, and we are here to unravel those mysteries. So, let’s begin!
What Happened in Real Life?
‘Amish Stud: The Eli Weaver Story’s narrative draws inspiration from real events involving the homicide of Barbara Weaver, an Amish housewife who resided in Apple Creek, Ohio, alongside her husband, Eli Weaver, and their five children. It is based on Gregg Olsen and Rebecca Morris’ book titled ‘A Killing in Amish Country: Sex, Betrayal and a Cold-Blooded Murder’ and has been adapted to the screen by Hunter Smith and Kim Izzo. The tragic incident occurred on June 2, 2009, when Barbara was discovered deceased inside her own home.
The film not only delves into the investigation but also explores the circumstances surrounding the crime, providing insights into what may have led to the commission of such a tragic act. By drawing from true events, the movie offers viewers a gripping portrayal of a real-life mystery and its underlying complexities. 30-year-old Barbara and her husband Eli, aged 36, were members of the Andy Weaver Amish community, and Eli owned a hunting store. Eli had left the community twice in an attempt to live an “English” life outside of Amish traditions and practices.
However, on both occasions, he was brought back and eventually accepted back into the community due to the influential position held by his father. Eli’s actions suggested a desire to break free from the constraints of Amish life. He maintained a secret phone and even created a profile for himself on Mocospace, a social networking site. Eli’s profile description read, “Who wants 2 do an Amish guy!” This profile hinted at his involvement in extramarital affairs, indicating that he was engaging in relationships outside of his marriage.
Fannie Troyer, Barbara’s sister, revealed to the police that Eli had engaged in financial abuse, withholding money from Barbara as a means of control and manipulation. Additionally, the children in the household disclosed that they had witnessed their father’s physical aggression towards their mother, further raising concerns about the dynamics within their family. A poignant glimpse into Barbara’s emotional turmoil came from a letter she had penned to her counselor. In this heartfelt letter, she lamented, “Where did my friend, love, trustworthy husband go to? He hates me to the core.”
Despite these troubling signs pointing towards Eli as a potential suspect, he had a solid alibi that ultimately cleared him of involvement in his wife’s murder. He informed the police that he had been planning to go fishing with his friends, and this alibi was subsequently verified and found to be truthful. When friends, family members, and neighbors spoke to the police about Barb Raber, the truth emerged. Barb, a 46-year-old woman who had also been raised in the Amish community, was married with three children and worked as a taxi driver.
It was revealed that she was one of the women with whom Eli had been having an extramarital affair. The police investigation uncovered the details of the crime. In the spring of 2009, Eli approached several individuals and discussed the idea of someone killing his wife. However, many had dismissed these discussions as mere talk. It was Barb who took matters into her own hands, leading to a sinister plot. Text messages exchanged between Eli and Barb revealed discussions about the best method for carrying out the murder of Barbara.
Suggestions such as blowing up the house along with the children or using poison were considered. Ultimately, Barb chose to use her husband’s .410 shotgun to carry out the act. She left her residence at around 4 am, entered Weaver’s home through the basement, and murdered Barbara in her bed. Luke Macfarlane’s portrayal of Eli in the film is truly exceptional. Luke’s charisma, reflected in his eyes and the way he carries himself, makes it entirely believable why so many women were initially drawn to his character.
Macfarlane’s performance serves as the linchpin that holds the entire story together and unquestionably stands out as the highlight of the film. A surprising and noteworthy performance comes from Clare Filipow, who takes on the role of Abigail, Barbara’s sister. Her portrayal adds depth and emotional resonance to the narrative, enhancing the overall impact of the character. Beyond the outstanding performances, it’s the directorial vision that truly grounds this story in reality.
The director’s approach avoids viewing the Amish way of life as a cult and instead presents it as a conservative religious practice. This nuanced perspective adds a significant layer of empathy to the storytelling, making it all the more compelling and relatable to the audience. During the trial held in September 2009, Eli made a plea of guilty to the charge of conspiracy to commit murder. In exchange for his guilty plea, he provided crucial testimony against Raber.
Investigating officers revealed that Eli believed the only way to escape his life was to eliminate his wife, as divorcing or leaving her would result in his ostracization from the Amish community. Eli was subsequently convicted of complicity to commit murder and was sentenced to serve 15 years to life in the Grafton Correctional Institution in Ohio. He becomes eligible for parole in the year 2024. On the other hand, Barb Raber was found guilty of aggravated murder and received a prison sentence of 23 years. She is currently serving her sentence at the Ohio Reformatory for Women.
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