A Pennsylvania couple has been charged with child endangerment for allegedly giving their teenage daughter away to a friend, according to the Associated Press.
The Amish teenager was allegedly
“gifted” to the scruffy, heavily bearded, and long-haired man when she was 14 and he was 47 – became his common-law wife, bearing him one daughter at the age of 15 and another girl just six months ago. They caught their neighbors’ attention, raising concerns and eyebrows as they walked outside.
Now 18, the girl, her daughters -and nine other young girls who may be her younger siblings -lived for years with Lee Kaplan in his modest, three-bedroom white bungalow on Old Street Road in the Bucks County working-class community of Feasterville.
Barefoot, wearing the long and simple solid blue or green dresses of their Old Order Amish heritage, the girls would play outside briefly, sometimes in the backyard where they helped grow vegetables and raise a passel of chickens. Property records indicate the house, built in 1926, once had a swimming pool in the backyard.
From time to time, Mr.Kaplan walked outdoors with the girls, holding the hand of the oldest. He sometimes took a couple of them with him to a nearby dollar store or to Lenny’s Hot Dog restaurant.
One neighbor after another called police and child-welfare authorities over the last several months and one reportedly as early as 2013. Their suspicions were apparently not strong enough; police said they were not specifically “child-abuse calls” and did not justify search warrants.
“You knew something was wrong,” neighbor Bob Greenfield said. He said he regrets not calling, too.
Authorities finally acted on Thursday, knocking on Kaplan’s door after neighbor Jen Betz called Bucks County Children and Youth Services. This time, police said they were able to get a search warrant because they had learned a key fact: A girl had been impregnated and given birth. Twice.
Kaplan is now charged with statutory rape of the teenager whose parents “gifted” her to him in gratitude for bailing them out of “financial ruin.” Her parents, Daniel Stoltzfus, 43, and Savilla Stoltzfus, 42, of Quarryville, Lancaster County, are charged with child endangerment.
All are being held on $1 million bail each.
Police said they believe the Stoltzfuses are the parents of all the children except the two Kaplan fathered. The Stoltzfuses claim they are the parents – but investigators said they can’t be sure as there are no birth certificates for any of them.
“It’s hard to even explain – there were a lot of children in the house, living in the basement, hiding in the chicken coop – but they are Amish and they have a different way of life. Authorities said all 12 of the girls were taken into protective custody of Bucks County Children and Youth Services.