She was too young to be his wife.

Too old to be holding his hand.

But the Amish teenager - "gifted" to the scruffy, heavily bearded, and long-haired man when she was 14 and he was 47 - became his common-law wife, bearing him one daughter at the age of 15 and another girl just six months ago.

They caught their neighbors' attention, raising concerns and eyebrows as they walked outside.

Now 18, the young woman, her daughters - and nine other young girls who may be her little sisters - lived for several years with Lee Kaplan in his modest, three-bedroom white bungalow on Old Street Road in the Bucks County working-class community of Feasterville.

Police don't know if any of the other girls were sexually abused; they will be questioned in coming days.

On Saturday, cadaver dogs roamed the property because investigators feared that babies' bodies may have been buried in the backyard.

"They really didn't find anything," said Lower Southampton Public Service Director Robert Hoopes.

"We didn't know if maybe there were babies born that were destroyed or whatever, but that's not the case, as far as we can tell."

Barefoot, wearing the long and simple solid blue or green dresses of their Old Order Amish heritage, the girls would play outside briefly, sometimes in the backyard where they helped grow vegetables and raise a passel of chickens. Property records indicate the house, built in 1926, once had a swimming pool in the backyard. Neighbors said it had been filled in and a large vegetable garden planted atop it in recent years.

From time to time, Kaplan walked outside with the girls, holding the hand of the oldest. He sometimes took a couple of the girls with him to a nearby dollar store or to Lenny's Hot Dog restaurant.

"He was bringing Amish girls in here," said Wayne Knapp, owner of the eatery. He said he and his staff sensed something was wrong. Even though he believed Kaplan would not hurt anyone, he said, his staff used to call the girls Kaplan's "wives."

One neighbor after another called police and child-welfare authorities over the last several months and one reportedly as early as 2013. Their suspicions were apparently not strong enough; police said they were not specifically "child-abuse calls" and did not justify search warrants.

"You knew something was wrong," neighbor Bob Greenfield said. He said he regrets not calling, too.

Authorities finally acted on Thursday, knocking on Kaplan's door after neighbor Jen Betz called Bucks County Children and Youth Services. This time, police said they were able to get a search warrant because they had learned a key fact: A girl had been impregnated and given birth. Twice.

Kaplan is now charged with statutory rape of the teenager whose parents "gifted" her to him in gratitude for bailing them out of "financial ruin." Her parents, Daniel Stoltzfus, 43, and Savilla Stoltzfus, 42, of Quarryville, Lancaster County, are charged with child endangerment.

All are being held on $1 million bail each.

Police said they believe the Stoltzfuses are the parents of all the children except the two Kaplan fathered. The Stoltzfuses claim they are the parents - but investigators said they can't be sure as there are no birth certificates for any of them.

Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler said Saturday he did not know why authorities had not acted more quickly on neighbors' complaints. He did say his own office was not contacted.

Heckler - chairman of the Task Force on Child Protection formed after the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State child sex-abuse scandal - reacted testily when pressed on the unanswered complaints.

"Put that goddamn thing away," he told an Inquirer reporter trying to videotape his remarks with her cellphone. He then quickly drove away.

Hoopes told reporters later that his office had gotten some calls about Kaplan and the girls, but they were too vague for officers to seek warrants.

He was asked specifically about neighbors who called to complain as long ago as two years.

"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? 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."

When police arrived on Thursday, the frightened girls scattered like kittens.

"All the children were running around. Some were hiding. They were well-behaved, but scared," said Lower Southampton Police Lt. Ted Krimmel.

Hoopes called the situation "kind of bizarre."

"It's hard to even explain - there were a lot of children in the house, living in the basement, hiding in the chicken coop - but they are Amish and they have a different way of life."

Savilla Stoltzfus was at the house when the child-welfare check was made.

Authorities said all 12 of the girls were taken into protective custody of Bucks County Children and Youth Services. Hoopes said they were all together, and "right now they are fine ... they are back up with Amish people."

He said investigators needed to question them "to make sure they weren't abused - we really don't know."

Police asked Lancaster County child-welfare workers, familiar with Amish culture, to interview them.

Heckler said Friday that the girls appeared to be in good physical conditions with no outward signs of trauma.

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.

Hoopes said investigators impounded two vehicles, one a white sedan and the other a bright blue conversion van. He said they would continue their "meticulous" search of the property for evidence on Sunday.

"I can't really tell you what they found on the property [so far]," he said. "There's a lot of evidence. I don't know what the evidence will show."

Kaplan was the only adult living in the house with the 12 girls.

According to an affidavit, he admitted having sexual intercourse with the oldest girl beginning when she was 14, fathering her two daughters. He also said he agreed that the girl would be "gifted" to him by the Stoltzfuses, in thanks for helping the family avoid "financial ruin."

John Stoltzfus, 19 - one of at least 11 Stoltzfus children - said Saturday in Lancaster County that he knew his sisters had been living with Kaplan and that the one just a year younger than he had borne Kaplan's children. He said he had seen his sisters fairly recently and described them as "good."

He met a reporter outside the family's red-painted farmhouse in Quarryville, set at the end of a narrow road that wound through rolling green fields. Chickens scratched at the dust as he spoke.

Kaplan, he said, is "a good man," adding his sisters "can learn from him." Asked to elaborate, Stoltzfus explained that his family comes from "an Amish background, so there's a lot to learn."

Pressed again, he said, "Let me take that back. You have to talk to Daniel [his father] when you can."

He said Kaplan was a business partner in the family's metalworking business.

Court records indicate the Stoltzfuses were the subject of a 2009 foreclosure on property they owned in Kirkwood, a small Lancaster County farming town, where they ran a scrap-metal business.

The foreclosure was initiated by the Old Order Amish Helping Program, a lending arm of the Amish, which had loaned the couple $300,000 in 2001.

In a lawsuit against the program, the Stoltzfuses, who were born into the Amish faith, alleged Amish leaders had tried to improperly force them out of their business and off the property, where they lived. They claimed sect leaders frowned on them for doing business "with an individual of the Jewish faith named Lee Kaplan."

The defendants, in response, charged that the couple had stopped making payments on the loan.

The property was eventually sold in a sheriff's sale for $342,000 and the Stoltzfuses' legal action was dismissed.

The couple eventually declared bankruptcy. They told police they were going to lose their farm until Kaplan "comes along and gives them money somehow," possibly employing Daniel Stoltzfus in the scrap business, Heckler said.

Their farm saved, Daniel Stoltzfus told police he did some internet research and concluded that it was legal to give their daughter to Kaplan, Heckler added.

The district attorney said the Stoltzfuses "think [Kaplan] is a wonderful man. Some of the girls also said good things about Kaplan, Heckler said. He described them as "brainwashed" by Kaplan.

Bucks County records indicate Kaplan was married in Trevose in December 1993 to Virginia P. Albrecht. There is no record the couple divorced. Efforts to reach Virginia Albrecht Saturday were unsuccessful.

Kaplan neighbor Jen Betz, 37, the mother of two children, said she had earlier called authorities. On Wednesday, she called a child-welfare hotline about Kaplan.

"The guy drives that creepy blue van," she said. "He looked creepy."

She had seen the older girl walking hand-in-hand with him and said it creeped her out.

That wasn't all. She learned there was an infant in the house.

"Something needed to be done," she said.

Kaplan's next-door neighbor, Anthony Zampirri Sr., told the Daily Beast that he called police as early as 2013.

Erika Knoll, 16, said her mother, Bonnie Knoll, had called child-protection authorities last month to report their suspicions. Her mother could not be reached for comment Saturday night.

Heckler said authorities would have to investigate the child-abuse case before they look into why the neighbors' reports were not acted upon by police.

"We have to investigate this first," he said. "Any investigation of what the police did or didn't do will have to come after the investigation."

Bucks County Commissioner Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia said she believes the tip last week was the first call made to Children and Youth Services.

"We all have to be our brother's keeper and get involved, even when we don't want to," she said.

Greenfield, the neighbor who hesitated to report his suspicions, feels badly.

"If I had said something a while ago, they would have come earlier," he said.


Staff writers Robert Moran, Justine McDaniel, Michaelle Bond and Sofiya Ballin contributed to this report.