A 51-year-old Pennsylvania man was arrested and charged with sexual assault Thursday after police found 12 young girls were being kept in his home. One of the victims, now 18 years old, bore the man two children after she was given to him by her parents at the age of 14 when he helped save her family’s farm, according to police.
Lee Kaplan was arrested after police investigated a neighbor’s complaint of child abuse, and officers discovered girls ranging in age from six months to 18 years old in his Bucks County home, Police Lt. Ted Krimmel told CBS Philadelphia.
“We believe that they’re originally from Lancaster County in the Amish community. Right now we’re working on getting an expert on Amish culture to help us conduct interviews on the rest of these children.”
An Amish couple reportedly gave Kaplan their daughter when she was 14 years old because he helped the family escape financial ruin by saving their farm. He allegedly had sex with the girl almost immediately after she entered his home, and between 2012 and 2015 she gave birth to two of his children, now aged 6 months and 3 years old.
The couple told police they thought the transaction was legal because they researched it online; they were aware Kaplan was having sex with their daughter.
It was this inappropriate relationship that tipped off Kaplan’s neighbor Jen Bets, according to NBC News.
“(She was) too young to be the wife, too old to be holding his hand.”
Bets told NBC News she would often see Kaplan walking down the street with the girls and holding hands with one of them, although the girls were rarely seen outside the house and weren’t enrolled in school.
“It took too long. I just want them to get help and get back and be happy. They’re so sad and fearful every time I see them. That’s what made me call.”
The couple who gave Kaplan their 14-year-old daughter claim all the girls in his home belong to them although this could not be confirmed by authorities. There are no birth certificates or social security numbers for the girls, but authorities believe they’re Amish and originate from a nearby Amish community, Krimmel told the Daily Mail.
“Right now we’re working on getting an expert on Amish culture to help us conduct interviews on the rest of these children.”
The Amish couple were apparently living with Kaplan in his home along with their children although authorities aren’t sure why they moved in, how long they had been there, or what happened to their other house. They also have a nearby Lancaster County address.
Authorities are still trying to piece together exactly what happened and have begun to question other nearby residents including Denise Horst, who told NBC News she saw the girls often.
“I’ve ridden by this house (and) I’ve seen young girls, various ages of children, dressed mostly in Amish clothing. Often afraid, like they would once he’d come out of the house, the male would come out, they’d go running into the house.”
Some guy had 12 Amish girls held hostage for years around here. If you think that something odd is going on report it, don't stay silent!????— Eva S (@Gonegonz) June 18, 2016
An Amish family gave their daughter to a predator and she was repeatedly raped to bear children in secret. https://t.co/GTZVWQG7sa— Gestalt Whitman (@nixnutzich) June 18, 2016
For now, the girls remain in protective custody while police and child services determine exactly what is going on.
Kaplan was charged with 10 counts of sexual offenses, eight of them felonies, including statutory rape and aggravated indecent assault; he remains in jail on a $1 million bail and is awaiting a June 28 court date.
The couple, Daniel and Savilla Stolzfus, have been charged with conspiracy to commit statutory sexual assault and endangering the welfare of children; they are currently in jail with a $1 million bond awaiting court Aug 2.
The Amish Pennsylvania rape case has roiled the local churchgoing community.
[Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images]