Monday, June 27, 2016

Lower Southampton police: No evidence siblings in 'gifted' child case abused

Posted: Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Interviews with nine young girls found living in the home of a Lower Southampton man accused of fathering two children by their older sister do not immediately reveal signs of abuse, police said Tuesday.
That older sister — now 18 — allegedly was "gifted" to Lee Kaplan, 51, by the children's parents when she was 14 in return for his assistance in helping them out of "financial ruin."
A custody hearing for the children, who range in age from 3 to 17, was held Tuesday morning in Bucks County court. Court personnel reported that at least 30 members of the Amish community where the family once lived spent about two hours at the Bucks County Justice Center in Doylestown. A court seal prevents authorities from discussing what took place during the hearing.
Kaplan faces sex crimes charges, including statutory sexual assault and aggravated indecent assault. Lower Southampton police have charged the girls' mother with endangering the welfare of a child, and their father with conspiracy of statutory sexual assault and child endangerment. This news organization is not identifying the couple in an effort to protect the identity of their daughters.
Bucks County Children and Youth Social Services placed the children in protective custody last week after a neighbor of the home on Old Street Road called child welfare officials and police found the children living with Kaplan.
The children are living in Lancaster, but not with family, according to Lower Southampton Public Safety Director Robert Hoopes. He did not know if the now 18-year-old woman and her children with Kaplan, who are 3 years old and 6 months old, were among them. Hoopes said police interviewed the woman; she told police she considered him her husband.
However, it remains unclear if Kaplan is divorced from a woman he married in December 1993 in Trevose, according to county marriage records.
Lower Southampton police interviewed the children Monday, though without the promised assistance of Lancaster social workers with experience dealing with the Amish, Hoopes said.
Hoopes said the children appeared to have had some educational instruction, including music and Hebrew lessons. The children asked for their musical instruments and sheet music, which police retrieved from Kaplan's home and returned to them, he added.
The interviews indicate the children lived in Kaplan's house for at least two years, Hoopes said. The children's mother also lived in Kaplan's home, but their father did not, Hoopes said. Police spent a day searching the home, Hoopes said, and found no evidence of birth certificates or Social Security cards for the children.
Police believe the children's father was living in a home the family has been renting in Quarryville, Hoopes said. No search warrant has been executed at the Quarryville home, he added.
While some of Kaplan's neighbors told media they previously reported concerns about the children to police, Hoopes insisted earlier complaints were nothing out of the ordinary. He claimed police investigated a chimney fire at the home about four years ago and had received "a couple" complaints about Amish children living on the property.
This news organization requested access to the police call logs from January 2009 to June 20, 2016, for calls involving Kaplan's house. Hoopes initially declined, then requested a Right to Know request be filed. This news organization has made the request.
Jo Ciavaglia: 215-949-4181; email: jciavaglia@calkins.com; Twitter: @JoCiavaglia

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