Lee Kaplan: Acquaintances, Neighbors Of Man Who Kept 12 Girls Captive In His Home Paint Fuller Picture Of Alleged Predator

The mother of Daniel Stoltzfus, who allegedly “gifted” his 14-year-old daughter to Lee Kaplan because he helped him through financial difficulties, said her son has always been different from her other 13 children. She said her son Daniel abandoned his Amish faith more 12 years ago, and that was the time he became friends with Kaplan.

As ABC News reports, Kaplan has been charged with, among other things, fathering two children with a minor, and her parents have been indicted for child endangerment. Kaplan fathered a child, now 3, and also has a second child, 6-months-old, with the girl, who is now 18-years-old.

After Daniel and his wife, Savila, allegedly “gifted” their oldest daughter to Kaplan, they allegedly sent nine of their other daughters to live with the 51-year-old man at his house in Philadelphia.

The Amish community where Daniel grew up, which is less than 75 miles away in the heart of Pennsylvania Amish country, has been buzzing with the news of the Stoltzfus couple and Kaplan. A man who knew Stoltzfus said the 43-year-old never forgave himself for mistakenly killing his son in 2001 with farm equipment. He said Daniel and his wife left the church two years later.

He said that “when you face trials, it either makes you bitter or sweet… when a person can’t handle things, they do radical things.” The man asked for anonymity because he did not want to contravene a religious taboo of seeking attention because he talked to the media.

When the Stoltzfus couple withdrew from the Amish community, they did it completely. They remained next-door neighbors with Daniel’s parents and lived just a few miles away from Savilla’s family, who owned a Lancaster County farm. The couple had then struck up a strange relationship with Kaplan, who bailed them out after they got into trouble over an Amish nonprofit loan they obtained for $300,000.

Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler said, “[T]hey were apparently in financial straits and that is just prime predator territory. They had very few other resources to turn to, and apparently along comes Mr. Kaplan.”

It was neighbor Jen Betz who called a child helpline and prompted police to visit Kaplan’s residence. Betz said whenever she drove past the house, things always looked odd. According to her, it was not even the unkempt surroundings that bothered her, but the children, who all wore blue dresses and kept to themselves. Betz said she saw Kaplan from time to time but never saw anyone who was a mother to the children.

“Don’t let the police leave until they see these children.”

Betz said the children, with their long dresses and long hair, stood out as people who had Amish affiliations but that the community did not usually live in the area. Betz said before she opted to call the helpline, she tried to investigate on her own.

“If I could get him to open the door and I could see for my own eyes…I guess I was thinking that I would call the cops right then and there. I wanted to get close enough so that I had some type of proof.”

According to Robert Hoopes, the director of public safety, Kaplan kept to himself, though he was seen on rare occasions with the girls at a restaurant about two miles from the house. The owner of Lenny’s Hot Dogs, Wayne Knapp, said Kaplan was a very religious man who said he was homeschooling the girls because he wanted to keep them away from the evils of the world.

A Dollar Tree employee said Kaplan always came to the store with the girls, but while he appeared neatly dressed, the girls always looked untidy, with dirty shoes and unkempt hair. The employee said they never spoke or made eye contact with anyone and never left Kaplan’s side when they were shopping.

Presently, the girls are in a safe house under the supervision of county social service workers. Kaplan has been charged with corruption of minors, indecent assault, aggravated indecent assault, statutory sexual assault, and unlawful contact with a minor. Daniel and Savilla Stoltzfus were both charged with endangering the welfare of a child. Daniel Stoltzfus is facing separated charges of statutory sexual assault and criminal conspiracy. They are all being held on a $1 million bail.

[Image via Lower Southampton Township Police Department]