DOYLESTOWN, PA (AP) — A Pennsylvania judge on Wednesday sentenced a married couple 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.
“I regret having to put my children through what they have been through this past year and wish to reconnect with my children,” Daniel Stoltzfus told the judge.
Jurors convicted Kaplan on all 17 counts of rape of a child, statutory sexual assault and other offenses last month, a year after a neighbor’s tip prompted authorities to search Kaplan’s Feasterville home.
Prosecutors said Kaplan brainwashed the family, casting himself as a prophet, and created a world in which “child rape was the norm.” Several girls testified that they considered him to be their husband, and their mother previously said that she knew about the sexual relationships but believed “it could be a good thing.”
During Wednesday’s hearings, one of the Stoltzfus girls read a statement asking the judge to show lenience in the sentencing of her parents, saying the family is suffering “needless” misery.
Finley acknowledged the pain that he said would come with sending the parents to prison but said their crimes were inexcusable.
“I understand their heartbreak at seeing their mother and their father in shackles, in cuffs, in prison garb,” he told Savilla Stoltzfus before sentencing her. “You made that decision. You knew what you were risking.”
Kaplan’s attorney said the family considered Kaplan married to the oldest girl and he never abused the others. Court records show his sentencing hearing is set for Sept. 20.