Day One: The start to a wicked tale
Lee Kaplan, 52, was arrested in June 2016 after a neighbor called in a complaint. Lower Southampton Detectives took him into custody outside of his home after they found 11 Amish girls living inside with poor conditions. Kaplan cooperated stating, “I knew this wouldn’t last long,” and he was taken away from 428 Old Street Road for the last time.
The case continued to June 2017.
Kate Kohler, Deputy District Attorney, opened the trial Wednesday with the point that Kaplan “brainwashed” the family so he could use the girls as sexual objects.
Ryan Hyde, Defense Attorney, stated he believes Kaplan is the prey of an “opportunistic” former Amish family, the Stoltzfus, who tried to gain control of his assets to leave their community. Hyde proceeded to show a letter the mother of nine of the girls found wrote to a family friend in prison. In this, she wrote she believed she would be out soon to get the children if she cooperated with prosecutors.
Kaplan had 12 Stoltzfus females living in his home, six of which were found to be sexually abused by him regularly. All of them believed he was their “husband.”
The Stoltzfus parents were arrested on charges including endangering the welfare of children. Kaplan and a, now, 19-year-old women are the parents of two of the children found. Their offspring are now 1 and 4-years-old.
All of the children have been kept together in foster care.
Wednesday, May 31
The prosecution brought six witnesses to the stand. The original jury of four females and eight males changed to three females and nine males.
Day Two: A family outcast
The first male Stoltzfus, 22, took the stand. He moved to Florida one year before the arrests of his parents and Lee Kaplan.
He shared his resistance with the family after one of his sisters, less than ten-years-old at the time, “bragged” about a sleepover at Kaplan’s house where “he made her butt sore and she liked it.”
After this, the older brother began research of cults and typed a letter to his father expressing concerns of Kaplan. When the two males discussed the matter the brother’s computer was “destroyed.”
He shared, “I believed God was showing me the truth.”
The brother recently reunited with Amish family due to possible financial issues he wrote about in letters to his mother during her incarceration.
He said he misses his sisters in court on Thursday, while throughout the day the five additional victims who testified were only asked if they missed their mother and Kaplan. All answered yes.
The ages of the five girls who spoke about their sexual relationships with Kaplan range from 9 to 17.
The girls explained a “model train business” they ran with Kaplan during their stay. They worked the website, took orders and put decals on the side of trains. Pictures show his basement, lined with railroad tracks and countless model trains.
The second to oldest Stoltzfus sister said Kaplan’s “marriages” to five of her sisters and her was “originally his idea.”
She looked over at Kaplan several times when questioned, “we knew if it did get out it would be ended.” And just before she left the courtroom she answered that she still loves him and was glad to see him after nearly a year.
Thursday, June 1
The always crowded courtroom and jurors heard from additional witnesses. The layers to the case grew as the Deputy District Attorney brought Lee Kaplan’s legal wife to the stand.
Day Three: Calm before the storm
The jury will have the weekend off after hearing 19 total witnesses testify in the trial of a man accused of holding 11 former Amish girls in his Feasterville home.
Lee Kaplan, 52, entered a plea of not guilty to multiple charges of child rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, aggravated indecent assault of a child, statutory sexual assault, and related offenses.
Throughout the trial, jurors heard from an annoyed neighbor, Bucks County and Lower Southampton Detectives, Bucks County Children and Youth employees, many of Kaplan’s victims, a brother of the victims, an imprisoned mother and more.
Friday afternoon the defendant squirmed in his seat as the courtroom listened to an audio recording of a meeting Kate Kohler, Deputy DA organized on Oct. 27, 2016.
During their conversation, the mother told the girls “to tell the truth.”
“I decided we should tell the story,” the mother said to her daughters. “So they understand. If you want to say so you can. Not that you have to.”
The mother explained to the girls she told of her sexual relationship with Lee Kaplan. One of the girls decided to pray and asked God to “make us a shining example.”
After this meeting, two Bucks County Detectives filed additional charges on Kaplan as they came to the conclusion the 52-year-old had sexual relations with all of them.
Friday, June 2
Both sides rest as every witness testified and jurors have seen or heard all of the evidence. The defense made the decision to bring no witnesses to the stand.
Day Four: The judgment of a world “he created”
The Doylestown courtroom was nearly full Monday morning. Lee Kaplan scanned every single persons’ face before he took his seat and poured himself a cup of water.
Jurors listened to closing statements for almost two hours.
Ryan Hyde, Defense Attorney, began with the audio of a tape previously used from an Oct. 27 meeting with the Stoltzfus mother, six daughters, and one grandchild.
“It would put Mr. Kaplan in jail, you understand?” The mother explained to her daughters. “They would like you to tell them he had sex with you.”
Hyde, much like the past three days in court, used little evidence explaining “I don’t think it’s a secret what my defense is.”
“This is a case of power and manipulation verse opportunity.”
He waved papers in his hand. Copies of letters the mother of the victims wrote to her son while in jail.
He read, “If I told them what Lee did. They would let me out.”
Hyde gained curious looks from the front row of jurors as he asked, “what is the hard evidence?”
“Air mattresses, a high fence, bad living conditions because a man was trying to provide for 13 people,” he paused. “Oh, and a lot of canned food.”
The Deputy District Attorney did not use the Child Advocacy Center with forensic interviewers for the young girls involved. But instead, she and detectives, with little background in child sexual assault cases, handled the questions.
The Bucks County Children and Youth employees assigned to the family never dealt with the Amish before.
Back in July 2014, two Lower Southampton Police officers were on Kaplan’s residence for an “open burning” report.
Detective Sergeant Shane Hearn, a lead witness, from Lower Southampton was there. He saw the Stoltzfus mother with a baby, a house with no open windows and Kaplan watering the garden with his urine. Hearn did not ask any further questions and left.
Hyde continued with zero script or notes, “there is no evidence. A young girl knew what sexual intercourse was on the stand, but not what the word ‘prior’ means.”
“That’s called coaching ladies and gentleman.”
From the time the girls were put into foster care in June to that Oct. 27, 2016, interview, the story changed and additional charges were filed.
“These girls had a motive. “Who did they pick?” Hyde exclaimed. “Their mother.”
“You are the last check and balance,” Hyde concluded to the jury and took his seat next to a man whose fate rests on him.
Kate Kohler, Deputy DA, took the floor in a red blazer and one last chance to prove a conviction she worked on for nearly a year.
“Six little girls in a house,” she pointed to Kaplan with force, “controlled by him.”
“In a world where sex with children is normal. In a world, he created for them. In a world where women and children are possessions.”
As her words began to fill the room, Kaplan turned in his swivel seat uncontrollably.
“Their words alone are enough to convict the defendant.”
She said it’s an insult the defense accused them of a deal with the Stoltzfus’ to create this story.
“The only world they knew turned upside down,” referring to the June 2016 arrest of Kaplan and the Stoltzfus parents.
Many of the former-Amish sisters had no social security cards, no toys or ever a birthday celebration as it was “evil.” They had no need to ever leave the house for food or work as a whole garden was available and a model train business to run with Kaplan.
“They existed for one reason and one reason alone,” Kohler pointed to the defendant again her face as red as her jacket, “to satisfy him however and whenever.”
The Stoltzfus man that took the stand and brother of the victims “is the real hero.”
The now 22-year-old came forward with letters their mother wrote to their father while living with Kaplan. He explained on the stand he once wanted to be like Kaplan, but now has “no respect for him.”
“Consent is not a defense,” the Deputy DA began to conclude after several images and a family tree poster board. “The Stoltzfus family felt the control of Kaplan and he sexually abused them for ten years.”
She faced the jury after one last glare at Kaplan.
“We are not in the defendant’s home anymore. We are in the courtroom.”
Day Five: Back to jail with an answer
After two days of deliberation, the jury came to a conclusion.
As the guilty verdict was repeated 17 times, Lee Kaplan unsure of where to look, twisted his beard nearly off his face.
He reached for the pitcher of water he gracefully poured for himself for the past five days.
But this time rejected.
A police officer knocked his hand away and gave the prisoner, no longer on trial, his water.
Read more and listen to details on the verdict here.