Officials in Bucks County (just outside Philadelphia) were acting on a tip Thursday when they found 51-year-old Lee Kaplan in his Feasterville home, along with 12 girls ranging in age from six months to 18 years.
The oldest girl told police that she and Kaplan have three-year-old and six-month-old children. Kaplan faces charges including statutory sexual assault, unlawful contact with a minor and aggravated indecent assault.
Neighbor Jen Betz has been called a hero for trusting the gut feeling she had about the house and calling the child welfare hotline, CBS Philadelphia station KYW reported.
“I just made the call, I just, I don’t know. It’s just an instinct,” Betz told the station.
“You notice these little children, these little girls, only little girls, and they’d come outside very rarely, very sporadically, you’d see one or two,” Betz said.
Police said that when the neighbors asked questions, Kaplan told them he lived alone in the house. The yard was full of overgrown brush, and the windows had been boarded-up.
“They’re so sad and fearful every time I see them. That’s what made me call. I’ve been telling my husband for years ‘Something isn’t right, something isn’t right,'” she said.
On Saturday, police and dogs searched the home’s backyard for evidence. Lt. Ted Krimmel of the Lower Southampton police department said authorities waited until dawn so they would be able to search the property in daylight.
“We have a search warrant for the entire property,” he said.
When police entered the home Thursday, “all the children were running around,” Krimmel said. “Some were hiding. They were well-behaved, but scared.”
“They were living down in the basement, they were hiding in the chicken coop,” Lower Southampton director of public safety Robert Hoopes said.
District Attorney David Heckler said the parents of the girl Kaplan is accused of assaulting told police they were going to lose their farm until Kaplan “came out of the blue and saved them from financial ruin.” The teenager’s parents told police that the nine other girls in the house were their children, but no birth certificates or Social Security cards could be found for any of them.
The children are now together in protective custody, and Lee Kaplan is being held with a $1 million bail.