Closure for Fillmore County woman, three decades after abuse

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PRESTON, Minn. (FOX 47) – A crime committed 30 years ago in Fillmore County is finally put to justice.

Monday in court, an Amish man is sentenced for sexual crimes committed against a minor within his community all those years ago.

Chriss Stutzman was sentenced to 45 days in jail and 10 years on probation after facing 3 charges of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree.

It was about a year ago when the victim, Lizzie Hershberger made the decision to report her abuse. At the time of the report, Stutzman was serving as an Amish preacher.

No longer a part of the Amish community, Hershberger read a victim impact statement in the courtroom, with her sister standing by her side.

“The process of coming forward and seeking justice is my closure,” Hershberger read in court.

For nearly six months in 1989, Stutzman raped Hershberger multiple times, he was a 28 year old married man – Hershberger, just 14. According to the criminal complaint, most of the abuse happened in a barn at a Fillmore County farm.

When Stutzman was confronted by Fillmore County Sheriff John DeGeorge, he admitted to having a personal and sexual relationship with Hershberger.

In her statement, Hershberger said she still suffers from nightmares and flashbacks and is hurt by the community who knew what was happening, but did nothing.In the

She also believes she isn’t the only child abused within the Amish community.

“There are many cases that I know of personally, that have happened, but people just don’t come forward and talk about them,” Hershberger said.

Hershberger says when she reported the abuse, she found out she was the very first person from her community to come forward since its start in 1974.

“Now that it’s over, I kind of feel like I opened the doors for other victims to come forward and see if they can get justice, even if it has been thirty years,” Hershberger said.

Hershberger is finishing up a memoir, with hopes to release it early 2020. She’s also the subject of a documentary. Hershberger hopes by sharing her story, she can help someone who may be in that same position.

Lizzie Hershberger is embraced by a room of supporters.
Beret Leone

Beret Leone

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