Couple Who “Gifted” Daughter Were Not Representative Of The Amish

There’s a good chance you’ve heard the story of a former Amish family who “gifted” one of their underage daughters to a man who provided them financial aid (if not, the details can be found here among many other places).

Over the past several days this bizarre story has gone worldwide (I’ve seen it in Russian, Chinese, and Australian media).

Part of the reason is the shocking nature of the tale. But it no doubt has gotten additional traction since the word “Amish” has been used in numerous reports to describe the couple and/or daughter.

The question of what makes a person Amish can generate much discussion and arguably has more than one answer.

Lee Kaplan, Daniel Stoltzfus, Savilla Stoltzfus

But if we take the term in its strictest sense, to mean someone who is a member in good standing of an Amish church, then Daniel and Savilla Stoltzfus, excommunicated over a decade ago, should be considered ex-Amish, and not Amish.

Nonetheless, this generates confusion at best and feeds into negative stereotypes about the Amish at worst (just read through a few comments sections on those articles for examples).

A reporter from the Bucks County Courier Times contacted me yesterday on a story about this which you can read here.

Basically the point was to address the question “Was this family’s behavior typical of the Amish?”

Experts Donald Kraybill and Karen Johnson-Weiner comment on how the couple’s actions do not fit the Amish mold. An excerpt:

Removing their then-underage daughter from the protection of the church community and placing her “at the mercy of a worldly man” violates everything the Amish teach about love and family, said Karen Johnson-Weiner, a professor of anthropology at State University of New York, Potsdam, and an expert in Amish family life. “No Amish group would sanction this behavior.”

“Certainly ‘gifting’ one’s 14-year-old daughter to anyone, much less a non-Amish man to whom one owes money, is not in any way Amish behavior,” Johnson-Weiner added.

That might be obvious to regular readers here, but for those with only a passing knowledge of the Amish, this scandal probably only added to misconceptions.

In that way it is not unlike the Amish beard-cutting story of 2011 which also reached an international audience.

The Amish rep is one thing, but what about the children?

The world’s perception of the Amish is one, ultimately lesser, matter. The harm done to the children is another.

Authorities are still investigating the case, in which the Stoltzfuses’ daughter was “given” to Bucks County resident Lee Kaplan at age 14, and bore him two children. Nine other young girls, supposedly also the couple’s daughters, were found living with Kaplan, a former business partner of Daniel Stoltzfus.

There are a number of murky details surrounding the case, which has its roots dating to at least 2003, when the couple were excommunicated from their Lancaster County church.

At one point the Stoltzfuses sued the Amish church. Some reports have even suggested Daniel Stoltzfus was “brainwashed” by Kaplan, with the family describing “cult-like behavior” from Daniel and Savilla after meeting the man.

(UPDATE: This just-published article at Lancaster Online gives the story of the Stoltzfuses’ break from the church in detail, along with comments from a relative)

I have heard that someone from the woman’s family might be taking in the children as their parents’ fate is decided. I’d expect the church and family are going to take care of these girls and hopefully begin to repair whatever damage has been done.

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    1. Thanks Erik

      Thanks Erik for the insights into this case. The bottom line is that it is a sad, sad situation that these girls have had to endure — and hopefully they will find both love and a more appropriate worldview as they are cared for by others. But it’s also disturbing that less-than-exact (so-called) journalism has given the Amish as a whole an undeserved black eye by not differentiating between the excommunicated Amish and what real Amish are and stand for.

      1. Mark -- Holmes Co.

        Very well said, Don! This just makes me heartsick. Those girls are going to need a LOT of help and love!

      2. Caring about Amish children

        I just want to say that I feel really sorry for all those girls with the way they were treated. First thing why didn’t the parents of those children stop them from doing things with nonAmish outsiders? To me this would be part of the parents fault for not laying down the rules of their life again before their children. Wouldn’t you all think so also?

        But most of all these children need help spiritually. CORRECT?

        My prayers will be with these children.

        Prayers always, Bernadette Ward

    2. Al in Ky

      When I first heard this news a few days ago, I knew there must be more to the story, so I’m glad you had this post, with the links to the different news accounts. It helps me understand more about what led up to the current situation. I’m hoping there won’t be more stories like this and the Bergholz story of 2011, but there may be.

    3. Kiki


      Thanks Erik for this article, as many people still don’t realize there are such predators out there. That’s exactly what Kaplan is, a child predator. I’m sure those ex-Amish parents knew exactly what he was and the most tragic part of this case is that THEY assisted him in that crime, victimizing their own daughters. I’d like to string ’em all up because those parents are just as guilty of this crime as Kaplan himself! May God protect those girls and heal the serious damage caused by those sick and evil adults.

      1. Yes it’s hard to imagine how parents could do this to their own daughter, “brainwashing” explanation notwithstanding.

    4. Greg Stutzman - Maryland (Holmes County OH born & raised)

      Good information

      Thanks for posting this along with the associated links. Great info and I will stay tuned for more from you (hopefully!) as the story develops.

      1. Sure thing Greg. Pretty awful story. We’ve had a couple of negative ones lately. I’m sure there will be more on this to come.

    5. Jedaho

      Lots of Prayers

      This incident is extremely disturbing on so many levels, it’s sickening!! I am so glad that you researched and clarified that this couple has nothing in common with Bible obeying Amish folks! I’ve been busy “setting the record straight” on newsfeed comments on Facebook. The original articles stated EX-Amish and I have tried to get the word out there that it means excommunicated and shunned, for a good reason. These parents are heartless criminals who are a disgrace to the plain community and hopefully they will reap what they sowed.
      As for these innocent girls whose lives were basically destroyed, only the Lord’s grace can repair their emotions and hearts. They need our prayers!!! God can heal the broken hearted, we can all help by interceding for these young souls. May God’s loving arms surround them!

    6. jerry

      This awful story shows us all that our friends in the Amish community can fall prey to evil outside influences. I pray for the children. It could have happened anywhere at anytime. Evil is out there and we must all support each other to protect children everywhere.

    7. Linda Northern Illinois.

      Couple who "gifted" daughter

      Don Burke said it all in his comment.
      Anymore the media of today gets the story out without the total total facts.
      Facts is the key word.
      It will take all of society to help these girls.
      Always in our thoughts and prayers.

    8. Ken Tibbetts

      It takes all kinds, doesn't it!?

      The Stoltzfuses are certainly not typical of the average Amish parents I am so familiar with. All those Amish parents I know are stern but kind and loving. Daniel and his wife left the Amish community and became “English” on their own and Daniel somehow hooked up with that perverse individual, Lee Kaplan. Kaplan, it seems, somehow persuaded the little girl’s parents to “give” her to him in lieu of payment of debt. This is against the law – and is actually a felony in the US. Why aren’t we informed that this child molesting pervert in prison? By all accounts he should receive a life sentence – at least.

      How sad that a barbaric creature such as Kaplan is still walking around a free man.


      Couple Who "Gifted" Daughter

      Thank you Eric for this post and for clarifying the details of this story. The people on this website I’m sure realized right away that this story is definitely not representative of the Amish culture. However, the media has portrayed the Amish as a whole in a very bad light with this story to people who don’t really know anything about the Amish. That’s the sad and hurtful part. They will form an opinion based on what they read or hear in the news. I think media has the responsibility to report the news but they should also have the responsibility of reporting it accurately.
      I know the Amish community will wrap their arms around these girls.

    10. Mark -- Holmes Co.

      Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m guessing using the “Amish angle” sells the story better than “ex-Amish who left ten years ago.” Does that make sense?

      Another odd thing that was pointed out to me by someone else is some of the web-sites that publish the stories of the ex-Amish don’t seem to want to touch this one with a ten foot pole.


        Yes, Mark that does make sense…unfortunately it’s at the Amish’s expense.

    11. Geniene

      spreading the blame

      Lots of attempts to clear the Amish of the stigma from this situation on here, but I think you all are protesting a wee bit too much. Any one ever hear of the nature versus nurture concept? These parents, even to the current date spent most of their life as compliant-practicing Amish. At the heart of so much of the horror is the idea of alienation, i.e. if there had been some family or healthy community involved in their life, this situation would, at the least been caught a little sooner, or never reached such horrific lows. Is it realistic or helpful to absolve the Amish community from a role in this? After all, the practice of shunning surely contributed to this situation every step of the way.

      1. Kiki

        Spreading the Blame

        If they were compliant Amish all their lives, they would’ve known that the Lord’s Word NEVER allows this behavior. They were ex-communicated for behaviors that were out of line of scripture and the Amish culture. They shouldn’t have needed an entire community to tell them that farming your minor daughters out to an obvious child predator to pay off a debt, or any other reason, was wrong. I’m a police officer and see far too many children victimized because their parents CHOOSE NOT TO OBEY GOD’S WORD OR STATE STATUTE. It isn’t the fault of the community, or the fault of the State, for them CHOOSING to break the law. They shouldn’t have needed ANYONE else to tell them they couldn’t do what they did, so don’t blame the Amish community as a whole for their own individual evil behavior. It’s all on them!

        1. AJ

          You put that very well, Kiki. I agree! Part of being an adult is accepting responsibility for one’s actions! It’s instinct — as parents we look out for our children irregardless of what has happened to us as adults.

        2. Will


          Could not have said it better myself, Kiki.

        3. Mark -- Holmes Co.

          Well said, Kiki, and AJ, too. Trying to shift the blame is pretty pathetic.

      2. former Amish

        This article was brought to my attention by a friend. Geniene needs to educate herself before giving “facts.” We left the Amish and were shunned. Our reasons for leaving have more to do with personal beliefs then with the Amish way of life. To say that being in this position took a family connection away from us and our children is wrong. It changed how we act with our family but we are still part of our families and our children do have the love and support of our families. I think Geniene is basing her views on one too many Amish romance books or something! Being put out of the Amish church did not turn us into child abusers or make us lose our morals and Geniene’s trying to blame the Amish for bad actions of the parents is way off track. She is offending those of us who leave by making it sound like we need our extended families to be good parents. We might no longer be part of the Amish but we have a loving relationship with our families. Geniene obviously does not know how it works. Kaplan was good at separating the victims from their families before they even left the Amish church and after they left that got even worse. I think Geniene is putting blame on relatives who tried to help but were cut off and lied to by the parents & Kaplan. Maybe the voice of someone with actual experience and knowledge is needed here.

        1. Mark -- Holmes County

          Good points! Glad to hear your views on the subject.

        2. Anonymous

          Interesting to read your opinions, Former Amish. A nice counter-point to the pontificating posted elsewhere on this thread. Your insight is based on experience and “inside” knowledge. Thanks for sharing this!

    12. Will

      What a tragic story! The conduct of those horrible so-called parents is abhorrent to us all. I am praying the children will get the help they need and hoping the three adults get their just desserts. The Amish folks I know are just as disgusted at this couple’s actions as I am. There is NO excuse for this at all.

    13. Kate F.

      Those girls are in our prayers! Will is right — there is no excuse for this whatsoever. I had to think of the girls held captive in Cleveland. I know we live in a disconnected society where our digital connection almost replace our neighborly connections, but if nothing else, this reminds us we need to be alert to what is going on in our neighborhood.

    14. Mark -- Holmes Co.

      Kate F., you are right — there’s no excuse whatsoever. Parents protect their children from harm, not deliver them to it. I read a book last year by Michelle Knight (spelling?) who was one of the Cleveland kidnap victims. We could wonder why the neighbors didn’t notice anything or take any action, but we got a lesson in that in our neighborhood about two years ago when a young woman escaped from a house she was being held captive in. The three close Amish neighbors and one non-Amish neighbor had not noticed anything unusual and the house is right beside/ behind several big tourist businesses with all kinds of people coming & going and not just customers, but employees, yard-workers, etc. Thankfully the young woman was able to get help quickly, but it made me realize that bad things can happen right under the noses of good people. I think the “neighbors” in these cases really struggle with guilt afterwards, as in “Why didn’t we notice this?!” If I remember right, the young woman was not American and our paper reported it as a case of human trafficking. I often wondered what became of her.
      I hope and pray these 12 victims in Kaplan’s house get qualified help. They are going to need it!

    15. Geniene

      not backing down

      Personal responsibility or just desserts now, won’t do one iota for those girls. Here is something that could have. A grandparent, aunt or uncle, or friend to take enough of an interest in their lives, so that when the situation started to deteriorate, that something could’ve been done then, not years and two children later! I don’t think there is anything wrong with recognizing that shunning is a formal church doctrine that, in this case, short circuited the human connection that could’ve made a big difference.
      How about the Amish take some personal responsibility for their practices that have real consequences in people’s lives?

      1. Mark -- Holmes Co.

        I don’t expect you to back down, Geniene. We know you better than that! But I’m sad that the grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends of the family, and so on who TRIED to check up on the children and were lied to or denied access are being painted as the bad guys here. If you had heard the first-hand accounts I heard this week, you’d never even consider making that baseless accusation.

        1. KF

          And...... ????

          Back to you, Geniene. I’m curious what your view is on this in light of the latest posts on here.

          1. Anonymous

            Once again we’ve been told something as “fact” by someone who has no idea what they are talking about. I think under the circumstances, backing down would be the honorable thing to do; along with an apology for having maligned the relatives who are dealing with enough pain without being accused of callously ignoring this dysfunctional family and abandoning them to a predator. We’ve seen this before — present “facts” that are sharply critical of a group of people but when presented with facts presented by someone with direct knowledge or experience POOF… she’s gone.

            1. Mark -- Holmes Co.

              I agree that “backing down” is the honorable thing to do. We’ve been taught that when we have erred, acknowledging it and making it right is not only the Christian thing to do but the mature thing to do, but I highly doubt the family is at all aware of how they were portrayed on here, so asking for an apology on their behalf is not going to accomplish anything.

              I decided Geniene might be basing her opinions on things she has read and “papier iss geduldig” (paper is patient) — we cannot always believe what we read. We can ALL take a lesson from this — we don’t always know the facts and until we do, we should keep an open mind.

              I’m reminded of a relative who was “shunned” but after his marriage fell apart, he moved back home with his children and though he had been excommunicated from the church, he lived with his mother for close to 2 years until he was back on his feet. A non-Amish friend said she was surprised that the reality of shunning could be so different from what the word “shun” implies.

              In another example, a friend belonging to one of the more conservative groups in Ohio recently took his non-Amish granddaughter to an auction for the day with him. The girl’s father has been “shunned” but still has a relationship with his family and is close enough that dropping the children off to be babysat by grandma & grandpa is not an issue. Sometimes the words we use convey a meaning that does not reflect reality.

              So for Geniene to read “shunned” and draw conclusions is understandable. Hopefully this comment will put the matter to rest.

              1. Kiki


                As always Mark, I completely agree and you’re right, your experience and first-hand knowledge of the matter SHOULD put things to rest. I imagine, however, that there will be those who just don’t get it and will never get it because God’s ways are not our ways and His wisdom is incomprehensible to our finite minds. Accepting Church discipline will never be an easy to understand topic, perhaps because we don’t associate it with love but it should be. Your examples of shunning are excellent and I thank you for sharing them. God bless!

    16. Will

      And again, the responsibility lies solely with the parents. If they need a network to remind them that gifting their daughter to a pedophile is not good parenting, then God help us all. Shifting the blame to other relatives does not hold water. And you are assuming the other relatives were deprived of contact though we don’t know the details. In assuming such factors, you are being most irresponsible.

      No need to reply, I’m done with this thread. I’ve no interest in seeing it turn into another pseudo-intellectual debate founded on your erroneous information. I’ve no interest in encouraging that nor any intention of rising to your bait.

      1. Geniene

        critique is a form of flattery

        At no point am I arguing that Daniel and Savilla shouldn’t be held responsible for this tragic turn of events. Insisting though, that the focus be exclusively on the responsibility of the parents, while doggedly ignoring how much the practice of shunning played a central role in setting the stage and enabling this abominable situation to continue for so long, hopefully will become a text book example of how the Amish are protected from reasonable critique.
        Daniel and Savilla’s travails, both as compliant Amish adherents and their non compliance, is well documented. It was clear as a bell some years ago that they were on a trajectory towards extreme alienation. Only the willfully obtuse would argue that that trajectory wasn’t fundamentally nurtured by the practice of shunning. They lost their family, community, livelihood, and home. And at the core of all that upheaval was the practice of shunning.
        Sure, not every formerly compliant Amish person who is shunned, ends up in a predicament like this, but that doesn’t exculpate the practice. For example, just because a black woman was able to become a millionaire in the early part of the twentieth century, doesn’t mean racism and prejudice didn’t have a profoundly negative effect on black people.
        Critique is not a bad thing. Calling a spade a spade can be an honest and loving thing to do.

        1. Kiki

          Critique is a form of flattery

          The title of your response makes no sense, as you’re NOT flattering anything or anyone here. The shunning happened way before this incident was uncovered, and it happened BECAUSE THEIR BEHAVIORS WERE NOT IN LINE WITH AMISH PRACTICE OR IDEOLOGY. Whatever the reasons for the original shunning, remember that the Amish always give members a chance to make right whatever it was that caused the community concern. There’s no such thing as, “You’ve been bad so we’re shunning you.” Counseling, forgiveness, and support are offered but if the offenders CHOOSE not to comply, then, and only then, will shunning be ordered. This is actually in Holy Scripture, when St. Paul orders the excommunication of a man who has an affair with his step-mother (1 Cor. 5:1-13). The Church offers protection from the power of the devil and must judge its members when they are obviously living according to sinful lusts which are contrary to Scripture. Excommunication removes that protection, protection the offenders CHOOSE to forsake in the first place. Once they’re out there on their own and see how painful and spiritually dangerous it can be, if they’re wise they’ll realize it’s NOT where they should or want to be. They can repent and are received back into the community. This is not unhealthy. On the contrary, it’s what God Himself commands. It’s called discipline. The offenders in this Amish case CHOSE to separate themselves from Christian practice, refused to repent, and were excommunicated. The community was right in doing so and did it for the sake of the offenders, as explained above. Discipline is always unpleasant but the hope is that a lesson would be learned and wrong behaviors corrected. That is the CHOICE of the offender. The Stoltzfuses made a WRONG CHOICE and it’s on them alone.

          1. Mark -- Holmes Co.

            Very well put, Kiki. Your comments are a “keeper.” You put it into words very clearly.

            1. Kiki

              Just changing the subject for a second folks...

              Thank you Mark. How have you been? How’s the family? I’ve been praying for you all. Rich and I are moving closer to making our move to Oregon. We put up a steel shed in May. I have some questions about mule-drawn carriages and if they can be used in areas where the roads are unimproved and get very rutted. How do you utilize your carriages under those conditions, or are you able to drive on pavement all the time? What about heavy snow? Thanks and God bless!

              1. Mark -- Holmes Co.

                We’re fine, Kiki. Thanks for asking. 🙂 And bless you for keeping us in your prayers. We all need that!

                Good questions — but read them just before I need to leave work. I’ll make a note to give you an answer when I’m back in the office on Monday.

              2. Mark -- Holmes Co.

                Thank you Mark. How have you been? How’s the family? I’ve been praying for you all. Rich and I are moving closer to making our move to Oregon. We put up a steel shed in May. I have some questions about mule-drawn carriages and if they can be used in areas where the roads are unimproved and get very rutted. How do you utilize your carriages under those conditions, or are you able to drive on pavement all the time? What about heavy snow? Thanks and God bless!

                We are kind of spoiled here in Holmes County. Though many of our smaller roads are not exactly smooth (with pot holes a plenty) most of the roads in our area are at least tar-and-chip if not paved. So, yes, we are mostly driving on pavement of some kind. If I were you and facing driving on badly rutted or rough roads, I’d definitely look at a wagon or cart with tires. Pioneer Equipment makes a lot of horse-drawn machinery and one excellent multi-purpose passenger/ hauling vehicle (a spring-wagon) and it would be worth seeing if they could suggest what kind of wheels or tires would be best for you. If you want the more traditional looking buggy wheel, definitely check out fiberglass wheels with a rubber rim! You can call Pioneer Equipment for a catalog at 330-857-6340.
                As for heavy snow, it’s got to be pretty bad before buggy wheels won’t cut through it. We used to see a lot more sleighs, but in our area roads are cleared more quickly and if you leave home with a sleigh, you might get stranded when you want to go home and find the road has been cleaned & salted or cindered.
                Most important of all, make sure there is a good farrier in your area that understands shoeing mules for road work. You don’t want to suddenly be stuck with a bare-foot animal and not know where to turn.

          2. Judith

            Using the Bible to justify....

            Kiki – I must say that using the Bible – especially Paul, to justify shunning (which Christ himself never spoke of and in fact refuted with the two greatest commandments in addition to Love Thine Enemy) reminded me of how the Slave Owners of the Antebellum period justified Slavery in the United States for years because of several passages in the Bible (specifically Paul, again) – and here is Paul defying scripture in order to return a slave to his owner – the fact are thus:

            While in prison, Paul met a runaway slave, Onesimus, the property of a Christian — presumably Philemon. He sent the slave back to his owner. This action is forbidden in Deuteronomy 23:15-16:

            “Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee.”

            “He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best: thou shalt not oppress him.”

            Rather than give the slave sanctuary, Paul returned him to his owner.

            In Ephesians Paul writes “Slaves be obedient to your human masters with fear and trembling.”

            What I’m trying to say is the practice of shunning is NOT scriptural according the Son of God. It is the opposite of what Jesus Christ taught. Whether or not Shunning is practiced with Love in mind, whether or not Shunning is in the Ordnung – does not matter to Jesus, Son of God. In fact, Jesus was the one who was shunned by the Pharisees. Jesus was the one who sought out those who were shunned, his story of the Prodigal son did not mention a Shunning of the son before his return, only happiness when he did walk through the door.

            The Bible is used more often now a days for evil (in the past it was used to justify Slavery – and now shunning which is not on par with slavery, but still is a harsh and unloving way to treat people) – than it is for the information Christ gave us in order to live our lives his way. Love thy neighbor as yourself. People discount this commandment (and by the way, it’s a commandment given to us by the Son of God, not an adorable suggestion) in order to justify unkind behavior towards others found in the epistle of Paul (whom I think was part loony and very cranky).

            Just my 2 cents on the Shunning matter. And not in relation at all on these two people in the article who have committed these atrocities and are clearly now living with grave and mortal sins on their souls. God will be their Judge.

            1. Kiki


              So you’ve taken the Mosaic Law and applied it out of context. St. Paul was NOT a loony and how dare you call any of them so! He returned the slave to his master BECAUSE the master was a believer and slave-owners were commanded to treat their slaves with love and respect, to the point that, if a slave wanted to remain with his/her owners beyond their contracted time, the owners would pierce the slave’s ear and he/she would then be considered part of the family. There are very specific behaviors expected from believers who were slave owners, as well as the slaves who were believers. The practice of ex-communication is for the purpose of “tough love” or discipline, not done out of hatred. You can’t pick and choose what part of Holy Scripture you’re going to believe, NOT if you’re going to call yourself a Christian or a Jew. I happen to be a Hebrew Christian so I know all about our Mosaic Laws. I also know that, as believers in the Messiah Y’shua (Jesus), we’re no longer under the Law because He is the fulfillment of the Law. At no time in the Old Covenant (Old Testament) do you see behaviors allowed among the people of God that go contrary to His commandments and precepts. Severe punishment was applied in such cases, once again not out of hatred, but for the sake of the salvation of the person committing the sin. The same applies in the Christian doctrine so don’t apply one for the other without knowing what you’re talking about.

        2. Mark -- Holmes Co.

          A few comments to add after a visit with friends in Lancaster County… Kaplan was isolating the Stoltzfus family long before the Stoltzfuses made moves towards leaving the Amish. Relatives who lived within shouting distance were being ignored or lied to by Daniels & Sovilla and the more Kaplan influenced than and the more concerned family & friends became, the more Daniel & Sovilla accused their Amish friends, relatives, and church people of being “evil.” Kaplan basically became their own personal cult leader and led them to cut their ties to anyone else. The Stoltzfuses then ASKED to leave the church and formerly sever all ties. After that, relatives were trying to check up on the family only to have their attempts ignored or when acknowledged, told lies about the whereabouts, health, and emotional state of the children. The relatives were trying very hard to ensure the children were safe, but were being thwarted by Daniel & Sovilla and Kaplan.
          Geniene, you really need to know the whole story before drawing your conclusions! You’re making it sound like the families abandoned Daniel, Sovilla, and their children. That’s in sharp contrast to the first-hand account I heard this week that puts the grandparents and an uncle & aunt on the front porch begging to be allowed to at least talk with the children and being ordered off the property.
          The same uncle & aunt were considering taking the children and serving as their guardians/ parents, but there are a few things standing in the way — #1 the children would not be allowed to have ANY contact with Daniel & Sovilla at all and the uncle & aunt cannot quite accept the fact that children would be denied ALL contact — the question arose that should the parents repent and ask forgiveness, would it be right to still enforce the no-contact rule. A bigger concern is #2 — these children are going to need serious professional help and the uncle & aunt (who never had children of their own) are questioning if they are even able to provide the environment the children are going to need… So these matters are being discussed.

          1. Thanks for filling in these details, Mark. It would be much more surprising to hear the children’s other relatives had not tried to do something for them, especially as the situation deteriorated and they were aware of Kaplan’s involvement.

            At some point there is only so much you can do when it is someone else’s children, and there is no clear evidence of crimes being committed. Was there any evidence of that? I am hazarding to guess there wasn’t, though also wonder about the willingness of members of the community to go to law enforcement. The absence of the children from the home would be alarming by itself, but if they were as isolated as it sounds, other relatives may not have even been aware. Without all the details it is just speculation here.

            As you know in some Amish communities there is greater reluctance to go to the law, but I believe there is less reluctance among Lancaster County Amish in general, given their history (including Nickel Mines) and general openness to non-Amish, compared to some in more conservative communities.

    17. Ken Tibbetts

      Only my take on the situation

      Only two parties are culpable in the horrendous situation with the ‘gifted’ young girls: the parents and that pervert, Kaplan. They should all be made to pay the price of prison sentences for their horrible deed. The Stoltzfuses, because of their naivete and lack of experience with ruthless individuals, were taken advantage of by a shrewd and nefarious child molester and abuser and for that reason should receive lighter sentences than Kaplan.

      Anyone who is party to child abuse must not go unpunished…no matter who they are.

      1. Kiki

        Only My Take On the Situation

        Amen, Ken, AMEN!

      2. Bryan Ballard

        I completely agree with you, Ken. Trying to shift the blame is reprehensible. Parents are responsible for the safety of their children no matter what culture they are in and perverts like Kaplan are despicable. I don’t know what Geniene’s agenda is, but it’s obviously flawed.

      3. Mark -- Holmes County
    18. Judith


      All of us are shunned at one point or another in our lives. Whether by teacher, or a friend, or family, or society, or our religion, or our government. No human walks this Earth without some other human, or group of humans shunning them in one way or another. And those who are shunned – guess what – they shun others, whether it’s because of their politics, or their race, or their religion, or their age, or their disability…etc.etc.etc….

      The only human that ever walked this Earth who was shunned horrifically – but never shunned anyone back – was a Carpenter from Nazareth. A peaceful man who preached love and forgiveness, even for the most despised. He shunned no one, not the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the sick, the blind, the lepers, even the ones who nailed him to a cross.

      Shunning does not force anyone to do anything – because we all have the free will to choose how we want to respond (or not) to shunning. The Man who walked the road to Golgotha showed us The Way. Respond with Love. Just Love. If you shun me – that’s okay. I still love you.

      1. Geniene


        Judith, I mean this partly in jest, but also in all seriousness. Your response here is a text book example of what being an apologist is. Loving those who do the shunning, doesn’t render the shunning benign. In some cases it may transcend it, but that in no way, makes it okay!

    19. Harriet

      Am I mistaken???

      Didn’t I read where the family had cut-off all communication with their family, neighbors, etc, long before they were excommunicated? If that is true, others might not have noticed what was going on. Regardless, it is NO ONES fault but the three adults.

      1. Mark -- Holmes Co.

        That was what I understood, too, Harriet. Through Amish connections in that area we heard bits & pieces and it sounds like Kaplan was already isolating them before their home-church and family were aware of what was happening.

        Rachel, I must have missed or forgotten that the police or Child Welfare agencies were contacted — must go back and reread the articles. I wonder why they were unable (or unwilling) to do anything? Any ideas?

        1. Isolation

          The below is from one of the recent articles. Daniel had an extremely traumatic event happen 15 years back. Not that that excuses this, but adds another layer to the story. It sounds like they self-isolated (and/or were also isolated by the community since they were excommunicated) or some combination of the two:

          Other Amish who knew Daniel Stoltzfus, 43, said he never forgave himself after running over his young son with a piece of farm equipment in 2001, killing him.

          Five months later, the couple borrowed $300,000 from the Old Amish Helping Fund, a loan for their metal business, CBS Philadelphia reported. The loan was essentially revoked due to allegations of child abuse — which police found no evidence to prove — and their relationship with Kaplan.

          Within two years, Daniel and Savilla had left the church.

          “When you face trials, it either makes you bitter or sweet…. When a person can’t handle things, they do radical things,” said a family friend who, like other Amish interviewed by The Associated Press, did not want to be seen as violating a cultural taboo against seeking attention and spoke on condition of anonymity.

          The couple almost entirely withdrew from the Amish community, cutting ties with their parents even though they lived next door to his mother and father and just a few miles from her family’s Lancaster County farm.

    20. Rachel

      Total Breakdown of Community

      Sometimes it’s a bit frustrating to read this thread and see people discount others ideas by dismissing them as ‘romance novel’ stuff. I think that anyone who has read this blog long enough would know that the Anish vary greatly from one region to another. And within those regions they vary from family to family. So it should be understood that there are definitely families where shunning does mean very little to no communication. It’s not a romance novel concept, it’s a reality.
      I’ll be honest, one of my initial thoughts was that the shunning definitely aided this family in being able to get away with this atrocity. As I began to read more and details came to light about how extremely controlling the father was, I realized that in this situation the efforts of family to remain in contact would probably not have helped save these children.
      It is easy to be frustrated with the police and Child welfare agencies who were all apparently contacted but unable (or unwilling) to do anything. It’s also frustrating that not a single family member was ever able to discover this and report it. But of course the sole blame belongs with Lee Kaplan and the parents.

    21. Amish Girl - Rebecca

      How horribly sad ! Those girls need prayers and help. I do not blame anyone, but the parents and Kaplan. While many people blame shunning and excommunication for their problems and while I realize those may have contributed, I believe there is much more involved in this situation. I can not speak for that particular community, but I know that had that happened here, everything would have been done to help that could have been. Another thing to consider is this : Did they (or would they) have accepted more help ? I have found out many times in life already that trying to help people who don’t want help won’t work either. Those poor girls are the victims and I believe the law not the community needs to be involved at this point. It is possible, the parents denied all contact with other family members for years already and if these girls had no phones there was no way to get in touch, because who knows what Kaplan or the Father would have done had family just driven up to the house to get in touch. I think there are deeper layers, than have been uncovered and I think it unfair for media to play in on the “Amish” portion, but isn’t that social media for you – taking extremes to bring sensation to a story, whatever it may be?

    22. Mark -- Holmes Co.

      Good points, Erik. We were told that relatives were trying to make contact with the family & the children in particular but they were pushed off with lies, like (in my own words) “They aren’t here right now” and so on and they were assured “The children are doing well” but family members still had concerns. You’re right — there is only so much you can do when you are not the parents and there is no evidence of anything wrong. The first-hand information we got told of relatives being very worried and finally concluding Kaplan had “brainwashed” the family enough that chances of making contact were not very good. It reminded me of books I had read about family members trying to rescue loved ones from cults. The law isn’t always very helpful in those situations. (Or so I understand from my reading.)

      1. Kiki


        Hi Mark,

        You hit the nail on the head when you wrote, “there is only so much you can do when you are not the parents and there is no evidence of anything wrong.” As a Police Officer I can speak to that point. There must be evidence of wrong doing and, moreover, evidence that the people involved had INTENT to commit a crime and the alleged victims were FORCED to comply. In this case, with no solid evidence of abuse, even if the family or community members went to local law enforcement it wouldn’t have helped. The laws are the way they are to protect even those accused of a crime because vendettas and “getting back at someone” by making false accusations are all too common. We Officers get very frustrated at all the hoops we need to jump through just to get someone who was arrested of a felony actually charged. Many times the Prosecutors won’t touch a case because there just isn’t enough evidence and they don’t want to falsely charge someone. We also know that sometimes they won’t take a case they really have to work hard to win.Sorry all you lawyers out there. A person must “KNOWINGLY” and “INTENTIONALLY” break a law and that can, surprisingly, be tough to prove. A good defense attorney can turn it all around to make those parents sound like innocent pawns in a sick game Kaplan was playing. I don’t buy into that because behaviors early on by the parents don’t support that. Still, this case will be tough for Prosecutors to win and I pray they do.

    23. Mark -- Holmes Co.

      Those are interesting points, Kiki. Erik brought that up and I was agreeing with it. I never thought about using the law to “get back at someone” but I can easily see how that could happen now that I think about it. I did once hear an officer say that “domestics” are the worst calls to get because emotions are running high and there is the chance of he-says-she-says that only confuse things.

      1. Kiki


        Hey Mark,

        Yup. I’ve also seen arrests for Violation of TRO when the petitioner, usually a girlfriend or ex-wife, invites the respondent over saying, “I don’t want the TRO anymore so let’s get together and talk things out” as a rouse to get the respondent there. She then calls the police saying he violated the TRO by coming over. It doesn’t matter that SHE called him. He knew very well he wasn’t supposed to be there and she knew that and used it against him. The fact that he’s there is the only proof officers need. Her part in it really has NOTHING TO DO WITH HIS CHOICE because he KNOWINGLY and INTENTIONALLY violated a court order. This is actually quite common so we warn the respondent about that. Oh yes, these ridiculous things people do to each other that the police need to deal with can be very frustrating.

        1. Mark -- Holmes Co.

          Hey Kiki… I figured out what TRO was after some asking around & head scratching. 🙂 Goodness… what manipulations some people go to! No wonder police officers get stressed! I’d think that after a day of dealing with the worst parts of human nature, a police officer must go home with a severe headache and wondering why they chose the job! But, as office discussion reminds me, it can’t be ALL bad. We appreciate our local policemen coming out to do safety presentations, drug & alcohol awareness and dealing with less human problems… like cows that got out and are running around or other rural adventures.

          1. Kiki


            Hey Mark,

            LOL! So sorry about that! I should’ve put in parentheses what TRO stood for. Yes, there are some laughable moments and times I’m grateful for where I’m assigned. Those times when the Lord tells me to speak to someone about Him and how He can turn a mess into a blessing, and those times when I’m asked to pray for someone. However, I’m in Central Receiving and EVERYONE who gets arrested comes to us so we usually never see the “good side” of police work where I am. We are the temporary holding (cellblock) they come to before going to court or bailing out. We’re part of patrol but don’t go out there. We are the “dungeon” as I like to call it. We sometimes have to get physical with arrestees more than officers out on patrol! If we’re assigned to be upstairs in front of the station we do take walk-in cases. We try to find humor and “fun” in this job but it can be very hard on one’s soul so please pray for us! Take care and be safe 😉

            1. Mark -- Holmes Co.

              Hi Kiki,
              I can’t imagine having a job like that. Officers needs our prayers! I can see how a job like that would be very draining.

    24. Up to 7 years in prison for the parents

      Daniel and Savilla Stoltzfus received their sentences last Wednesday:

      (Doylestown) — A judge has sentenced a former Amish Couple from Lancaster County to up to seven years in prison each for giving their oldest daughter to a cult-like figure who sexually assaulted the girl and her five sisters.

      Bucks County Judge Jeffrey L. Finley said the actions of Daniel and Savilla Stoltzfus were unimaginable as he sentenced them following their convictions on child endangerment charges.

      “The idea, again, that an individual in any community would hand off their children into the bed of another person is just incomprehensible,” Finley said, adding that he would have given them longer prison sentences if legally allowable.

      Daniel Stoltzfus, 44, who pleaded no contest, was sentenced to 3½ to seven years. Savilla Stoltzfus, 43, who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to three to seven years.

      Authorities said the couple “gifted” their oldest girl to Lee Donald Kaplan, 52, because he helped them out of financial trouble when they broke with their Amish faith. Kaplan fathered two children with the girl, the first when she was 14. She is now in her late teens.

    25. Lee Kaplan sentenced

      Lee Kaplan was sentenced today to 30-87 years in state prison for his crimes.—years-in-ex-amish-child/article_6a3eb6f4-9d7a-11e7-8dc8-8bbdd011300b.html