Courtesy of The Meadville Tribune

ROCKDALE TOWNSHIP — Edward Gingerich, convicted almost 18 years ago of one of the most gruesome and publicized crimes in Crawford County history, has been found dead.

Crawford County Chief Deputy Coroner Scott Schell said the cause of death was suicide by hanging.

Gingerich, 44, who was Amish, had been living at the home of George and Stephanie Schroeck, 27912 Miller Station Road, where he resided for about the past year, Schell said.

Schell estimated the time of death to be about noon Friday. He said Gingerich was found in a barn on the property in mid-afternoon by Stephanie Schroeck. A call to Crawford County 911 was received at 3:18 p.m.

"He left the house at about 10 (a.m.) and walked to the barn to feed the horses," Schell said he was told by Stephanie Schroeck. "He didn't return, and she went looking for him at about 3."

Meadville-based Pennsylvania State Police responded to the scene to conduct an investigation.

Gingerich was convicted in 1994 of involuntary manslaughter, but mentally ill, in the killing and dismembering of his wife, Katie. The murder took place during the evening hours of March 18, 1993, in the kitchen of the couple's Rockdale Township home.

Reports said that Gingerich knocked his wife to the ground, crushed her skull, cut open her stomach with a kitchen knife and removed her organs. He was later arrested at a dirt road intersection near his home by state police.

He was released from a State Correctional Institution on March 19, 1998, after serving his full four-year sentence and eventually moved to an Amish mental health facility in Michigan and also lived in Indiana before returning to the Brown Hill Amish community in February 2007.

It was not an easy return for him or for Crawford County's Amish community.

In April 2007, Gingerich found trouble with the law again, when he and his brothers, Atlee and Joseph Gingerich, were charged with unlawfully taking his teenage daughter from the custody of Edward's parents, who raised the girl since his murder conviction.

Edward Gingerich, who was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, according to a book written by former Edinboro University of Pennsylvania professor Jim Fisher, was sentenced to six months probation and ordered to pay $500 in fines after pleading no contest to some of the charges.

Then, in February 2008, he was charged with illegally possessing and using a firearm while deer hunting. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge in October of that year and was sentenced to serve three months in Crawford County jail.

But it was the murder, trial and conviction that caught widespread media attention, apparently because of the Amish connection and a general fascination and respect for the Amish lifestyle.

Upon his return and new legal problems, reports indicated he was considered an outsider by the local Amish community.

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