The Pennsylvania parents who "gifted" their eldest of nine daughters to a man who then impregnated her were sentenced Wednesday to prison
The Pennsylvania parents who “gifted” their eldest of nine daughters to a man who then impregnated her — and raped five of the other girls, all of whom came to live with him with their parents’ consent — were sentenced Wednesday to prison, PEOPLE confirms.
Daniel and Savilla Stoltzfus received the maximum possible penalty for, in the words of the judge, making their children live like “sex slaves” of Lee Kaplan, a 52-year-old former business associate who authorities have said preyed upon the family and convinced them he was a prophet of God.
“For whatever sick purpose — whether or not you fell under the power in a trance-like state of Kaplan — you knowingly allowed your family, your children, your daughters to move into this person’s home,” the judge told Daniel at the hearing, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“You exchanged a certain level of comfort for the intellectual, emotional and sexual well-being of your children,” the judge told Savilla. “You watched day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year as Mr. Kaplan took your daughters by the hand, led them into his bedroom [and] locked the door behind.”
Daniel was sentenced to three-and-a-half to seven years in state prison for conspiracy of statutory sexual assault and child endangerment, to which he had pleaded no contest. Savilla, who pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child, was sentenced to three to seven years in prison.
Both are mandated to undergo a mental health evaluation and therapy.
“I regret having to put my children through what they’ve been through this past year and wish to reunite with my children,” Daniel said in court Wednesday, according to the Inquirer, as Savilla told the judge she was “very, very lost” when she met Kaplan and asked his forgiveness for putting her kids at risk.
The judge’s decision shocked Savilla and her attorney, Craig Penglase, who tells PEOPLE that he and the prosecution had asked for the judge to consider his client’s cooperation throughout the investigation and trial.
“[When she was arrested,] the world didn’t know what this case was. My client made the decision to come forward and expose the gravity of the case,” Penglase says.
Daniel and Savilla were arrested in June 2016 after their nine daughters were found living with Kaplan, then 51, in his Feasterville, Pennsylvania, home.
At the time of their arrest, the couple admitted they had “gifted” the eldest girl, then 14, to Kaplan to be his wife — years before their other daughters were discovered also living in Kaplan’s home.
Shortly after authorities discovered the girls, officials revealed Savilla had also been living with her daughters along with Kaplan, having moved in with the other girls after her eldest daughter gave birth to her first child with Kaplan.
The eldest and Kaplan have two children together: a 1-year-old and a 4-year-old. In total, the girls in the home ranged in age from 3 months to 18 years old. (Authorities previously said Kaplan was found with 12 girls and now say it was 11.)
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In the beginning, Savilla and her daughters did not want to share what had happened inside Kaplan’s home, which prosecutors previously told PEOPLE was due to his brainwashing. However, Savilla later agreed to cooperate and convinced her daughters’ to testify against Kaplan.
In June, a jury found Kaplan guilty on 17 criminal counts including rape of a child, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and indecent assault.
Kaplan originally faced charges of statutory sexual assault, unlawful contact with a minor and aggravated indecent assault. But Penglase says that prosecutors were able to charge him with more sex crimes after Savilla convinced her daughters to share their stories.
After her eldest daughter gave birth to her first child, Savilla moved into Kaplan’s home with the rest of her daughters. Soon, she testified, she too was sleeping with the man authorities described as a self-proclaimed prophet.
Savilla, a mother of 12 (including three sons), testified that despite knowing Kaplan was having sex with her daughters, she and Daniel thought they were doing what was best for the girls.
Savilla said that she and her six oldest daughters considered themselves to be Kaplan’s “wives” and had dreams about Kaplan, which they took as a message from God.
During Kaplan’s trial, Savilla and six of her daughters testified in court. Among those who spoke out was a 15-year-old girl who said she was 7 when she first had sex with Kaplan.
Matthew Weintraub, the district attorney in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, previously told PEOPLE that Kaplan used the family as “a virtual feeding ground of victims.”
After the sentencing Wednesday, Deputy District Attorney Kate Kohler said the sentences were just. “Daniel and Savilla both committed heinous acts against their children by allowing this to happen,” she told the Inquirer. “These children need time to heal and to learn in therapy about what’s supposed to be happening in the real world.”
Prosecutors did not immediately return a message seeking comment. Daniel’s attorney could not be reached.
Kaplan’s sentencing is scheduled for later this year.