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Ex-Amish Parents of Child-Rape Victims Sent to State Prison

July 19, 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Kate Kohler, 215.348.6327, kkohler@buckscounty.org

Daniel Stoltzfus Savilla Stoltzfus
      Daniel Stoltzfus                Savilla Stoltzfus

Daniel and Savilla Stoltzfus, a Lancaster County couple who allowed six of their underage daughters to be raped or sexually assaulted by a Feasterville man they regarded as a financial and spiritual savior, received lengthy state prison sentences today from a Bucks County judge.

Daniel Stoltzfus, 44, was sentenced by President Judge Jeffrey L. Finley to serve three and one-half to seven years in prison. He had pleaded no contest in April to one count of endangering the welfare of children.

Finley said it was the longest sentence allowed by law for the third-degree felony. "It would be higher, if I had the ability to do so," Finley told him.

Savilla Stoltzfus, 43, who pleaded guilty in April to the same charge, was sentenced to three to seven years in prison. Finley said he gave her a slightly lesser minimum sentence because she had cooperated with prosecutors.

Calling their behavior "unacceptable in any civilized community," the judge  accused the  couple of reducing their daughters to little more than "sex slaves."

The Stoltzfuses, who have 14 children, acknowledged allowing all of their 11 girls to move into the Lower Southampton Township home of self-styled prophet Lee Kaplan.

Over several years Kaplan, 52, repeatedly had vaginal or anal intercourse with five of the couple's daughters, fathering two children by one of them, and sexually assaulted a sixth. On June 6, a Bucks County jury convicted him of 17 felony sex crimes including child rape, statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and indecent assault. 

He is scheduled to be sentenced by Finley on Sept. 20.

The assaults began when the girls, now ages 19 to 9, were as young as 6. Each reluctantly testified at Kaplan's trial that he began sexually assaulting them early in childhood, but said they considered themselves to be Kaplan's "wives" under his interpretation of divine will, and that they still loved him.

Testimony at the trial indicated that Daniel and Savilla Stoltzfus not only placed their children in harm's way, but knew that he was having sex with them. Savilla Stoltzfus, who also moved into Kaplan's home, testified that she, too, became Kaplan's "wife" and had a sexual relationship with him, eventually regarding her daughters as rivals for Kaplan's affections. .

Before imposing the sentences, Finley expressed incredulity at what the Stoltzfuses had allowed to happen, saying they had endangered each of their 11 daughters, whether they were assaulted or not.

"Your conduct is unimaginable; it is unacceptable," the judge told Daniel Stoltzfus, who had remained in Lancaster County while his wife and daughters moved in with Kaplan.

"He fathered a child with your 14-year-old daughter, and yet he remained living with your children..." the judge said. "There is harm to these children that we can't begin to imagine. People with sexual trauma tend to sustain lifelong harm."

Finley told Savilla Stoltzfus, who for months had watched as her daughters accompanied Kaplan into the bedroom of his home, that he he saw little difference between her crime and her husband's. 

"You allowed your daughters to continue to crawl into the bed of that man, knowing what was going on," Finley told her.

Kaplan had befriended and financially supported the family almost two decades ago, when the Stoltzfuses were leaving the Amish faith. The move decimated them financially when the surrounding Amish community shunned them and ceased doing business with Daniel Stoltzfus's metal fabrication and scrapping enterprise.

Kaplan at first moved into the Stoltzfus's home, later returning to Feasterville and opening his own house to female members of the family.

Kaplan and the Stoltzfuses were arrested in June 2016 after Lower Southampton police and Bucks County Children and Youth workers arrived at Kaplan's house to check on the welfare of the children living there. The three were charged after it became apparent that Kaplan had fathered children with the eldest of the Stoltzfus daughters, beginning when she was 14.

But the scope of his crimes remained hidden, as each of the other girls denied any sexual contact with Kaplan. The deception ended last fall after one of the Stoltzfus's adult sons came forward with correspondence indicating that additional daughters had been assaulted, and that his parents were aware of it.

The disclosure prompted Savilla Stoltzfus to cooperate with prosecutors, urging her daughters to speak truthfully to police and agreeing to testify at trial against Kaplan.

"She went that one step further and brought forth the information that was the substance of the trial that you heard," her attorney, Craig Penglase, told Finley. "It revealed the depth and quite frankly the depravity of what happened."

Deputy District Attorney Kate Kohler, who prosecuted the case, agreed that Savilla Stoltzfus deserved some consideration for her cooperation. "I agree with Mr. Penglase that Savilla is in a different position than Daniel," she said.

In a halting statement to Finley, Daniel Stoltzfus did not admit his guilt, but said he regretted "having put my children through what they've been through this past year," and saying he hoped to be reunited with them soon.

Savilla Stoltzfus was more contrite. "I hope that you can forgive me for putting my children at risk for my own wishes and wants," she told Finley, adding that she had "thought that God was with" Kaplan.

Finley also heard from the second-oldest victim, 18, who read a statement on behalf of herself and her sisters. 

"We love our parents very dearly. It has been very hard for us to be separated from them this long, and it will be much harder if our separation continues," she began. 

"Not very long ago, our mother was everything to our younger sisters," the statement continued. In the time since Savilla Stoltzfus entered prison more than a year ago, the younger children "have been so distanced from their mother they rarely even talk about her. It's as though our mother lives on another planet, instead of being the all-supportive caregiver she once was."

The daughter implored Finley to "not increase our misery by forcing us to continue our much-dreaded separation from our beloved father and mother."

Finley told the Stoltzfuses that they would have to undergo extensive mental health exams and treatment, as well as parenting instruction and family counseling, before they could hope to begin spending time with their children after leaving prison.

"I understand their heartbreak at seeing their mother and their father in shackles and prison garb," the judge told Savilla Stoltzfus. He added: "You made that decision."

The case was investigated by the Lower Southampton Township Police Department and Bucks County Detectives, and prosecuted by Kohler and Assistant District Attorney Rose McHugh.

Approved for release by Gregg Shore, First Assistant District Attorney.

Office of the District Attorney
Bucks County Justice Center
100 N. Main Street
Doylestown, PA 18901 
Phone: 215-348-6344 
Fax: 215-348-6299

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