David Eller

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David Barry Eller (born April 30, 1945) was a professor of Religious Studies and head of the Department of Religious Studies at Elizabethtown College until his termination, following his arrest for attempting to meet a minor for sex in July 2006.

He has been an ordained minister of the Church of the Brethren since 1978.[1]


Eller taught courses in Brethren life and thought, as well as Anabaptist and Pietists groups.[2] He also functioned as director of the The Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College since 1997.[3]

He had been assistant pastor (1965–66) at Long Beach, California, Church of the Brethren; youth minister in the Methodist Church in San Dimas, California (1966–67), and part-time pastor of the Deshler Church of the Brethren, Deshler, Ohio (1977-1982) while at Bluffton College. Eller was ordained in 1978 at the Pleasant View Church of the Brethren in Elida, Ohio.[1]

Dr. Eller appeared in the July 10, 2006 episode of the PBS series History Detectives,[4] discussing alternative service certificates issued to conscientious objectors during World War II.

Legal trouble[edit]

On Thursday, July 20, 2006, David Eller was arrested on attempting unlawful contact with a minor, as well as criminal use of a computer.

On June 29, Eller made contact with "angelbaby12pa", not knowing the Yahoo name was registered by undercover agents of the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Child Predator Unit.[5] He believed he was talking to a 12-year-old girl, who was about to enter the seventh grade. He started to ask the "youth" questions of a sexual nature. These questions included her sexual history, as well as her bathing suit and tan lines.

Eller resumed contact on July 17 and July 18. Within his messages, he hinted at the possibility of a face to face meeting, saying: "Learning to know you on chat, and if that works, we set up a meet," he allegedly said. "If we meet, if would be for private fun." Confirming the details on July 19 and July 20, Eller was to meet the fictitious girl in an Ollie's[6] parking lot on Route 22 in Lower Paxton Township, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.

In the late afternoon on July 20, Eller arrived at the location and was taken into custody,[7] by agents from the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Child Predator Unit,[5] and the Lower Paxton Township Police. Eller's arrest was the 56th since the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Child Predator Unit was created in January, 2005. [1]

After his arraignment, Eller was charged[5] with violating Pennsylvania law with one count of criminal attempted unlawful contact with a minor, a first-degree felony with a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. In addition, he was charged with one count of criminal use of a computer, a third-degree felony that carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine. A warrant was obtained to search for information in Eller's Elizabethtown College office computer, a frequent site for Eller's chats.[8]

In a statement released July 21, Elizabethtown College director of college relations, Lori Hixon, said Eller had been placed on administrative leave. Elizabethtown College's press relations office issued a release on July 28 that Eller had been terminated from the college. President Theodore Long was quoted as saying, "He can no longer serve the college with integrity or effectiveness." Jeffery Long has subsequently been named head of the Religious Studies Department; Donald Kraybill has been named interim director of the Young Center.

Eller was held in Dauphin County Prison in lieu of $250,000 bail. He waived a preliminary hearing and a formal hearing was set for September 21, 2006.[3] Eller was arraigned one day earlier on September 20, 2006. He pled not guilty to charges of attempted unlawful contact with a minor and criminal use of a communication facility. He requested a trial by jury. Eller was scheduled for court on November 21, 2006.[9] Eller requested a continuance, which was granted, and his trial date was postponed until January 17, 2007. Eller's defense asked for a second continuance, which was granted, and his new trial date was set for February 21, 2007. At his trial on February 21, Eller pled guilty to both charges. In order to allow time for a Megan's Law evaluation of David Eller to occur, sentencing was scheduled for Friday, June 1, 2007.[10]

On June 1, 2007, Judge Scott A. Evans sentenced David Eller to 2.5 – 10 years in state prison, with an additional 5 years of probation thereafter.[11] Eller is serving time in the State Correctional Institution at Waymart in Wayne County, Pennsylvania.[12]

See also[edit]