Serah Bellar's mom Deborah Bellar told sons, daughter to shut up during sexual abuse probe, reveal texts
ATHENS, OHIO: Mother of Seah Bellar, Deborah Bellar, pleaded not guilty to several felony charges last week after being accused of trying to hinder investigations into the alleged sexual abuse of her children. Court documents showed that the 49-year-old mother was given a $1 million bond after she was apprehended on Tuesday, May 18, following indictments against her, her husband, and two of their sons.
Multiple instances were detailed in the seven-page indictment against Deborah Bellar in which she allegedly "discouraged several of her children" from talking to detectives who were investigating accusations against the sons. Josiah Bellar, 24, faces three counts of rape involving two of his sisters and is currently in prison for a string of felonies including theft and robbery. Meanwhile, Jonathan Bellar, 26, is facing one count of gross sexual imposition involving one of the sisters Josiah allegedly raped. Jonathan, who has also served time behind bars for unrelated felonies, was arrested on Wednesday, May 19. Robert Bellar, 54, Deborah's husband, is also accused of attempting to cover up the alleged sexual abuse.
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An investigation was launched after Serah Bellar, one of Deborah and Robert's 18 children, reached out to authorities last month after disappearing for a year. Taking to Facebook, Serah assumed the pseudonym Delilah Rose Price and explained why she ran away from home, detailing a history of alleged sexual abuse and other mistreatment at the hands of her own family.
Investigators working with the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office obtained copies of phone conversations and email exchanges between Deborah, Robert, and their three sons in prison. They also retrieved copies of text messages exchanged by Deborah and one of her daughters, per WOUB.
In one email message to Josiah, Deborah warned her incarcerated son that he was "going to get mail from an agency with some very serious allegations... our attorney says do not... I repeat... do not answer them!!” In conclusion, she wrote that "we all know what is being said isn’t true and we’re doing all we can on this end so please just do what I ask… all of our lives as we know it depend on it.”
The indictment detailed another text message Deborah sent to one of her daughters two days after Serah's April 26 Facebook post. In the text message, Deborah warned her daughter that "no one talks anywhere on anything to anybody even in person…. Period. Thank you ???????? the issue is going to be all the attention this is getting... no one talks! You plead the 5th (your constitutional right) and shut up until you have an attorney."
Chief Assistant Prosecutor Liz Pepper said during Deborah's arraignment on last Wednesday, May 19, that Deborah Bellar had a history of not cooperating with investigators. “She has concealed witnesses. She has tampered with evidence and she continues a conspiracy to hide sexual abuse that has occurred in her home," Pepper alleged.
According to the prosecutor's office, at least three reports of alleged sexual abuse in the Bellar household were made to Athens County Children Services over the years. However, there were no concrete actions taken, which Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn said was “an absolute systematic failure in handling these accusations.” “Serah was turned away by authorities every time she tried to report this abuse,” he said in a press release Tuesday, May 18.
Athens County Children Services defended its actions in statements released the following day, noting that its role is to probe into allegations of suspected child abuse and that it works together with law enforcement in these probes.
“The staff at Athens County Children Services take very seriously every allegation of suspected child abuse and neglect and work tirelessly within their jurisdiction to ensure the safety and protection of the children involved,” ACCS spokesperson Robin Webb said in a statement. “It is unfortunate that their work, dedication, and commitment to child safety have been called into question when the work they do is so critical.”