A Pennsylvania couple told authorities they “gifted” their teenage daughter to a man who helped save them from financial ruin -- and thought the arrangement was legal, even after the man fathered two children with the girl.
Lee Kaplan, 51, was found living with the teen, now 18, as his wife, along with 11 younger girls, when a neighbor’s tip sent child welfare workers and police to his small Bucks County house on Thursday, police said. He was jailed under $1 million bail on charges of statutory sexual assault and corrupting the morals of minors.
"We kept finding more children," Lower Southampton police Lt. John Krimmel told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “It's just a crazy situation."
Police also arrested the girl’s parents, who they said were Amish, as they began peeling back the story of how so many children wound up in the house. Daniel Stoltzfus, who told investigators he had researched the legality of giving away his daughter on the internet, was charged with conspiracy to commit statutory sexual assault and child endangerment. Savilla Stoltzfus, who investigators said acknowledged she knew of her daughter's sexual relationship with Kaplan, was charged with child endangerment.
The children included a 3-year-old and 6-month-old, who the 18-year-old girl said were hers, fathered by Kaplan, according to court documents cited by NBC-10. Authorities said the girls all appeared in good health and were in protective custody together.
The Stoltzfuses told detectives the nine other girls found in the house all were their children, Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler told WPVI-TV. "But I don't know if we believe them," Heckler added. He said some of the girls had positive comments about Kaplan, but appeared to be “brainwashed.”
The Stoltzfuses told police they were losing their Lancaster County farm until Kaplan "came out of the blue and saved them from financial ruin," Heckler told The Associated Press. The criminal complaint says Daniel Stoltzfus told police the couple gave their child to Kaplan four years ago as thanks.
Neighbor Jan Betz told WPVI she complained about the house after repeatedly seeing girls there -- always wearing blue dresses and looking afraid.
"I saw a couple girls last week standing in the driveway," Betz told the station. "They just looked unhappy and sad, and again in the blue dresses, and I've been telling my husband for years something isn't right."