Jun 5, 2017

In Bucks County, monsters are real: John L. Micek

DOYLESTOWN -- The Stoltzfus family believed Lee Kaplan was a prophet of Jesus Christ and a dream interpreter. They loved him and respected him.
June 2, 2017

DOYLESTOWN -- The Stoltzfus family believed Lee Kaplan was a prophet of Jesus Christ and a dream interpreter. They loved him and respected him.

DOYLESTOWN -- When you think of Bucks County, you probably first think of friendly homes with wide, rolling lawns. Bucolic towns with warm streets and a wealth that its possessors probably thought would insulate them from the terrors of the wider world.

Or maybe you think of the working class neighborhoods in Levittown, where men in hard hats went to work at U.S. Steel in Falls Township, punching in and then punching out, making an honest day's living for an honest day's pay, before heading home.

But this week, in a courtroom in Doylestown, residents of this suburban enclave north and east of Philadelphia, were vividly reminded that monsters who prey on our children do walk among us -- even in Bucks County.

And sometimes, those children can't count on those they should be able to count on the most - their parents - to protect them from those monsters.

Because, sometimes, the parents are monsters too.

In chilling testimony, several children of a former Amish couple, one of them just nine years old, recounted the serial sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of Lee Kaplan who, gut-wrenchingly, they considered their husband.

The nine-year-old, a daughter of Savilla and Daniel Stoltzfus, was, disgustingly and mind-bogglingly, "gifted" to Kaplan by her parents as a future wife, prosecutor Kate Kohler said.

But as PennLive's Christian Alexandersen reported, Kaplan allegedly began having sexual relations with the couple's other children as well.

What parent "gifts" their child to someone else? What soulless calculus leads to that conclusion?

Well, money, of course. And a misguided belief that the "giftee" has a hotline to Heaven.

But even still, what parent doesn't step in to prevent what happened next?

In court, the 9-year-old Stoltzfus child testified that she was just 7 years old when Kaplan raped her anally on multiple occasions. She was eight when it stopped, she said.

The distance between those two points must have seemed an eternity.

"He told me not to tell anybody what she was doing," the child testified Thursday, uttering a refrain that is tragically all-too-common in cases such as this one.

Not that anyone would have listened. Her parents were already allegedly complicit in the terror.

Her voice barely audible, the 11-year-old Stoltzfus child relayed what happened when Kaplan led her to his room and closed the door behind him: He'd pull up her dress and rub his genitals on her buttocks.

What fear must have rose in that child? Did the door close in slow-motion as it does in those scenes in movies, signaling that some unspeakable horror was about to unfold?

Did she close her eyes and wait for it to be over? Did she blame herself?

The parent in me asks all those questions. I don't know if I want to know the answers.

As Alexandersen reported, a 15-year-old girl testified Thursday that she first began having sex with Kaplan when she was either 10 or 11 years old. That continued, happening a couple of times a month until Kaplan was arrested in June 2016, when she was 14 years old.

In court, the girl said she had sex with Kaplan because that's what wives do for their husbands.


Savilla Stoltzfus, who also became one of Kaplan's "wives" insanely testified in open court on Wednesday, the first day of the trial, that she grew jealous of her daughters.

She even went so far as to write a letter to her legal husband, Daniel, to complain that Kaplan had stopped having sex with her, preferring the children instead.

"I looked at them more like other women than my children," Stolftzfus testified.

She later added that she thought the serial rape of her children was acceptable because Kaplan thought they were going about God's work or some such nonsense.

"I could see that as being a good thing," she said, adding she had no regrets because "we had a good life."

There's no way to give even adequate voice to the inherent craziness of that statement. There's no way to describe how profoundly broken the relation between mother and child must have been to allow Savilla Stoltfus to rationalize that away.

Remember again, this wasn't some Lifetime movie from Hell. There was no tidy resolution at the end of the hour. No break for commercial.

This was real life, taking place in real time, in a courthouse in a leafy suburb just two hours from Harrisburg and maybe 45 minutes, on a good day, with no traffic, from Philadelphia.

You've probably been there.

Turning logic even further on its head, Kaplan's attorney, Ryan Hyde, tried to paint his client as the true victim, claiming the Stoltzfuses saw him as little more than a meal ticket and coldly exploited him.

"Like a tick, they were digging in," Hyde said of the Stoltzfuses.

Maybe they were. Maybe they were just that mercenary. But that's never a defense for child rape. Especially child rape that results in children having children themselves, as was the case here.

Kaplan, 52, is faces 17 counts of rape, sexual assault and conspiracy charges relating to the alleged sexual assault of the Stoltzfus children.

There are a lot of words to describe him. Not one of them gets much past monster. Most of them are unprintable in a family newspaper.

There are a lot of ways to describe the Stoltzfuses. Not one of them is printable in a family newspaper.

Not one of them is "parents."


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