For years, Jen Betz said, she had been telling her husband that something was off.
She was worried about the girls she saw at a nearby Feasterville, Pa., home, the Associated Press reported.
“They’re so sad and fearful every time I see them,” Betz told the wire service.
So last week, Betz said, she made a call. “Something needed to be done,” Betz told the Philadelphia Inquirer, which also reported that Betz had discovered a baby was at the property.
Now Betz’s 51-year-old neighbor, Lee Kaplan, faces charges that include statutory sexual assault, AP reported. In his home, authorities found several girls, one of whom was allegedly given to him a few years ago.
Kaplan admitted to fathering two children with that teenage girl, whose family gave her to him, a criminal compliant notes. The girl’s father told investigators that his daughter was “gifted” to Kaplan “in thanks for helping his family out of financial ruin,” the documents state.
The complaint says that the girl’s father told investigators he and his wife gave their daughter to Kaplan after researching whether it was legal online, and that the teen first became pregnant at age 14. The girl’s parents were also taken into custody, the Inquirer reported.
AP reported that authorities visited Kaplan’s house after receiving a tip, and the Inquirer said they took action after Betz’s call.
UPI reports that 12 girls were discovered at Kaplan’s Pennsylvania home, including the now 18-year-old and her two daughters. The Associated Press reports that some of the children were expected to be interviewed Monday, as authorities try to figure out who was supposed to be caring for them.
In Kaplan’s basement, Lower Southampton police, Pennsylvania state police, and Bucks County district attorney’s investigators found evidence that some of the girls were living there. They had been sleeping on air mattresses amid an elaborate and expensive model train setup, a tank where catfish were being raised, and a greenhouse where avocado trees were being grown.
There were also signs they were being homeschooled; several violins and musical instruments suggested they also had music lessons.
“They were living in the basement; they were hiding in the chicken coop,” Robert Hoopes, Lower Southampton’s director of public safety, told USA Today.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the other girls found at the property had been victims of sexual abuse, the Inquirer noted.
The newspaper reported that Kaplan had been spotted with the girls and had occasionally visited local businesses with them. Neighbors had contacted authorities, but those calls didn’t result in property searches.
“The neighbors that called two years ago — I don’t know what you’re referring to — what kind of call did they call, that they saw Amish people?” Hoopes told the Inquirer, when asked about the calls. “That’s the calls that we got. I mean we didn’t get child-abuse calls there, so if it was a child-abuse call, we would have responded, naturally. But that’s not what we got.”
Police who visited Kaplan’s home late last week found children “running around,” Lt. Ted Krimmel, of the Lower Southampton Police Department, told AP.
“Some were hiding,” he said. “They were well-behaved, but scared.”
Dogs aided police as the investigation continued over the weekend.
“You knew something was wrong,” Bob Greenfield, another neighbor, told AP. “It makes you feel bad. If I had said something a while ago, they would have come earlier.”