Editor’s note: The ex-Amish Stoltzfus family was evicted from their home and business property in 2009. They had accepted financial help from their cultish business partner, Lee Kaplan. To show gratitude, Daniel and Savilla Stoltzfus apparently concocted a sick plan. Click this link to read the first half of this terrible story. Here is the second half.
Daniel Stoltzfus supposedly did online research and found a way to thank Lee Kaplan for financial help during the family’s misfortunes. He concluded that it would be perfectly legal to give—to “gift”—his eldest daughter to Kaplan. This was not a marriage. Daniel later denied that sex was part of the agreement with Kaplan, who allegedly first put his hands on the girl in 2008, when she was ten years old, and began raping her in 2010.
In 2012, the girl moved into Kaplan’s house in Feasterville, Bucks County, some eighty miles from the Stoltzfus home in Quarryville. Assistant District Attorney Kate Kohler commented:
“Mr. Stoltzfus gave his 14-year-old daughter to his 47-year-old business partner,” she said. “You do not give your daughter to a man that’s not in your family and not expect them to have a sexual relationship.”
The eldest victim testified at a hearing that, at age 15 and again at age 17, she brought Kaplan’s children into the world:
She gave birth to her children “in the bedroom” she shared with Kaplan, with her mother delivering the children[.]
Over time, nine more daughters of Daniel and Savilla Stoltzfus moved into Kaplan’s house. Neighbors sensed problems, but could not get solid information. Calls to the authorities led to a visit or two, yet abuse went undetected.
As time dragged on, five more of the Stoltzfus sisters were allegedly victimized. All six were conditioned to see themselves as Kaplan’s wives. So docile were they that, when the authorities finally visited in force, the sisters had only nice things to say about the man who allegedly raped them for years.
Delayed arrival of cavalry
It took a highly determined neighbor to make the authorities heed. Jen Betz had bad feelings about Kaplan, his blue van, blue front door, blue light in the back yard, and especially the pairs and trios of quiet, barefoot girls in blue dresses she occasionally spotted outdoors.
When an infant joined the disturbing household, Betz made an adamant call to Bucks County Children and Youth Services in June:
“I just wasn’t gonna let go. I saw a couple girls last week standing in the driveway. 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[.”]
This happened after the call:
When police arrived [,] the frightened girls scattered like kittens.
“All the children were running around. Some were hiding. They were well-behaved, but scared,” said Lower Southampton Police Lt. Ted Krimmel.
[Lower Southampton Public Service Director Robert] Hoopes called the situation “kind of bizarre.”
“It’s hard to even explain—there were a lot of children in the house, living in the basement, hiding in the chicken coop.”
Abusers sometimes isolate children from society and mandatory reporters through claims of home schooling. In this case of alleged abuse, workbooks and a Hebrew text were found in Kaplan’s house. According to Wayne Knapp, owner of a hot dog stand where Kaplan sometimes took the girls:
Kaplan told him he was homeschooling the girls, saying he wanted to keep them away from the “evils of the world.”
Six little sisters, all “wives” of one man
Lee Kaplan, and Daniel and Savilla Stoltzfus, were arrested, charged with crimes ranging from child endangerment to statutory rape, and held on $1 million bail each. The girls were returned to Lancaster County, where they are living together in the Amish community. The minors are under the care of child welfare authorities.The young mother, now 18, is raising her infant and toddler daughters—Kaplan’s children. In August she testified in a court hearing, while forty Amish waited outside. Investigations yielded this information:
Kaplan admitted to police that he fathered the two youngest children—now 3 [years old] and 10 months [old]—with the oldest sister, who is now 18 […]
The oldest girl told police the six sisters were Kaplan’s wives, and he told them he learned in dreams that the arrangement was what God wanted[.]
According to Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub:
“[Kaplan] played on their trust and affection for him and he groomed them to see him as a religious and cult-like figure” […]
Kristen Houser, chief public affairs officer for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, attempted to describe the eldest victim’s emotional plight:
“When we look at developmental factors and life experiences — or, in her case, lack thereof — it’s understanding that this could be a very confusing time for her,” Houser said.
“Many times, people in these situations do develop feelings of affection,” she said. “She has lived as his wife since she was a child.”
A trial of all three adults was expected to begin in November. However, plans fell through:
Kaplan and the girls’ parents, Daniel and Savilla Stoltzfus, were supposed to go on trial next week, but the proceedings have been canceled, according to online court documents.
Coming up in part 3: Recipe for patriarchal abuse of girls
Propinqua is the Latin word for neighboring or nearby (singular feminine adjective). It is used in law and philosophy, and in the scientific names of plants and animals, such as the native bee Osmia lignaria propinqua.
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