Pennsylvania authorities are trying to piece together how 51-year-old Lee Kaplan, of suburban Philadelphia, managed to hold 12 girls, ranging in age from six months to 18 years, captive in his home for several years despite multiple warnings from concerned neighbors, CNN is reporting.
At least one of the girls was a “gift” to Kaplan, sent to live with him by her parents at age 14 after Kaplan helped out the family financially.
Kaplan was arrested last Thursday morning after an anonymous tip alerted police about a young girl looking “scared” and “nervous” being seen outside the home. Eventually, police, executing a search warrant, found evidence that 12 girls had been living at the home, according to Robert Hoopes, Lower Southampton’s director of public safety.
“They were living in the basement, they were hiding in the chicken coop.”
Neighbor: ‘Something isn’t right’ about girls at Lee Kaplan’s househttps://t.co/uNO8huYNeg pic.twitter.com/94cHUoeXoS
— LancasterOnline.com (@LancasterOnline) June 19, 2016
Kaplan was arrested and charged with statutory sexual assault, corruption of minors, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, and unlawful contact with a minor, according to USA Today.
Authorities are now investigating the possibility that the 12 girls found in Kaplan’s home are in some way related to each other.
The oldest girl found captive in Kaplan’s home was 18-years-old and was the mother of two of the other girls; Kaplan had fathered both of them. Since Thursday, it has emerged that the now 18-year-old was “given” to Kaplan as a “gift” at age 14 after Kaplan helped out the family financially.
Police say that Daniel and Savilla Stoltzfus of Quarryville, about 100 miles away in Lancaster County, the heart of Pennsylvania’s Amish country, were about to lose their family farm when Kaplan helped the family out in some way.
I spoke to Daniel and Savilla Stoltzfus’s son outside their home. He told me his parents “are good people.” pic.twitter.com/S5gAPboXTu
— Bryant Maddrick (@BryantCBS21) June 19, 2016
According to a criminal complaint against the Stoltzfus’s, Daniel and Savilla used the internet to research whether or not it is legal to “gift” a child to another person and somehow concluded that it was okay to give their daughter to Kaplan.
“Stoltzfus stated that his daughter… was ‘gifted’ to Lee Kaplan in thanks for helping his family out of financial ruin.”
The age at which the Stoltzfus’s daughter was given to Kaplan is not clear, but it is known that she was 14-years-old at the time her first child was conceived with Kaplan.
Daniel Stoltzfus has been charged with conspiracy to commit statutory sexual assault and children endangerment. Savilla was charged with endangering the welfare of a child.
Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler is investigating the possibility that the other children found in the home were also either children or grandchildren of the Stoltzfus’s. Savilla has claimed that she can produce birth certificates for all of the children, but medical tests would also be required to determine if the girls are related.
The Stoltzfus’s may be Amish or may have at one time been Amish. Neighbors who took notice of Kaplan confirmed that the girls were seen around the house in traditional Amish dress.
Neighbor Jen Betz said she had contacted authorities “multiple times” about her suspicions about what was going on at Kaplan’s home.
“My gut was telling me to confirm what I was thinking. I just knew. There was no reason why this older, significantly older man, any man, regardless of what they look like, would have this amount of children, all in blue dresses, never outside the house regularly, looking so scared. I knew that something wasn’t right.”
Hoopes noted that seeing children in traditional Amish dress is not unusual in rural Pennsylvania, and a phone call about girls in Amish dress is not a cause for alarm.
“What kind of call did they [make]? That they saw Amish people? That’s the kind of calls we got. We didn’t get any child abuse calls. If it was a child abuse call we would have responded.”
In fact, authorities had been sent out to Kaplan’s home on at least one occasion, but police found no probable cause to execute a search warrant on the home.
As of this writing, Lee Kaplan and the Stoltzfus’s are all being held on $1 million bond each.
[Image via file404/Shutterstock]