Lee Kaplan
Lee Kaplan Lower Southampton Police Department via AP

Paedophile 'prophet' took six children as wives

A PAEDOPHILE brainwashed a former Amish couple into regarding him as a prophet and 'gifting' him their six young daughters as child wives, a court heard.

Lee Kaplan, 52, convinced Savilla and Daniel Stoltzfus that his relationships with their six daughters were the will of God, who contacted him in his dreams, the court was told.

The first daughter to be "gifted" to Kaplan, it was claimed, was given as a future wife when she was nine years old.

Her older sister testified that she too was molested by Kaplan, the abuse allegedly starting when she was ten and leading to her becoming pregnant by him aged 14 in 2013.

Ms Stoltzfus, 43, also went to live with the accused, Bucks County Court in Pennsylvania heard, and allegedly ended up complaining to her husband that Kaplan had stopped having sex with her, preferring intercourse with her daughters.

For about five years, the court heard, the girls lived in isolation in the house of Kaplan.  The windows remained covered, it was said.

The girls, it was claimed, did not go to school and had no contact with anyone their own age because Kaplan told them other children attracted evil spirits.

He allegedly told the girls to call him "Lave", meaning "Lord", and claimed to be educating them about their place in society.

But the court heard that when the authorities found the children after Kaplan's arrest in June last year, it appeared they had been denied basic health care.

Three of the children had allegedly been infected with Lyme disease for about five years. 

Five of the girls had to have several teeth removed, Stacy Roach, a Bucks County Children and Youth supervisor told the court. "They had to be shown a video of how to wash long hair.

"It was obvious with the amount of dental work they needed that they probably didn't brush their teeth."

Kaplan is facing 17 counts of rape, sexual assault and conspiracy charges.  He spoke at his trial for the first time on Friday, but only to confim that he would not testify.

When Judge Jeffrey L. Finley asked if it was his decision not to take the witness stand, Kaplan replied in a deep voice: "Yes, that is my desire."

It is alleged that when Kaplan met Daniel and Savilla Stoltzfus in 2002 the couple were leaving the Amish faith and struggling financially.

Kaplan allegedly began providing them with money, as well as business and spiritual advice.

Mr Stoltzfus, 44, is said to have told police he and his wife gifted the nine-year-old to Kaplan after he helped them financially, promising her to him as a future wife.

The nine-year-old and her ten-year-old sister, the court heard, began taking turns spending the night in Kaplan's bedroom inside their parents' house in Quarryville, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

The older sister told the court that it was here that her sexual relationship with Kaplan began, when she was ten and Kaplan was in his forties.

The two sisters began spending more and more time at Kaplan's house in Feasterville and, the court heard, the oldest daughter began having full sexual intercourse with him when she was 12.

The regular intercourse, it was claimed, continued up until the night before Kaplan was arrested last year.  By that time, it was alleged, the victim, who was then 17, had had two children by Kaplan.

The alleged victim said she could not personally testify to sexual acts between her five younger sisters and Kaplan, but she confirmed that all of them were considered Kaplan's wives and that she saw Kaplan lead her sisters individually into his bedroom at different times.

Deputy District Attorney Kate Kohler told the court that the Stoltzfus family had been "brainwashed".

"All they knew was life with the defendant as their leader, their preacher, their husband." she said.

"Six children became his victims. Six children became his sex toys."

Kaplan was arrested after police received a complaint about the health and safety of numerous children in his home.  When officers attended the property, it has been reported, they found 11 girls - nine of Savilla Stoltzfus' children, aged three to 17, plus the toddler and infant born to the oldest daughter.

The house where the children were found.
The house where the children were found. ABC6 - YouTube

Savilla Stoltzfus has told the court: "As we all well know and understand, we're familiar with [Kaplan] and his ways, and we understand that he's always motivated to follow the leading of God.

"I always trusted him that whatever goes on is a good thing."

In a recording played at the trial, she was heard telling her six daughters to tell the truth in court.  She also told her children that the family's way of life might have been accepted in the past, but in the modern world, "There is nothing more vile, even people drug-abusing is not as bad as this, in their eyes.

"But that's today."

One of the daughters suggests they all pray, saying: "God almighty, you brought us to this.  You've been with us all these days.  You will make us a shining example to all the people."

In another part of the recording apparently suggesting the extent to which the children been cut off from the normal world, a daughter said she had looked up birthday celebrations online and remarked: "The round cake, the candles… it comes straight out of witchcraft."

Defence lawyer Ryan Hyde has argued that as the family saw it, Kaplan was married to the oldest daughter and the other children loved him.

He denied Kaplan abused the younger girls.

"He was advancing their lives," Hyde claimed, arguing that the family took advantage of Kaplan's generosity.  "He was running them out of the darkness that was their lives beforehand."

The trial continues on Monday.

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