Brother pleads guilty in case alleging long history of sexual abuse within Bellar family

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — The brother of an Athens County girl who alleged a long history of sexual abuse within her family pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges of felonious assault and child endangering.

Josiah Bellar
[Athens County Sheriff’s Office]
Josiah Bellar, 24, was indicted earlier this year on three counts of rape and two counts of gross sexual imposition, much more serious charges than the ones to which he pleaded guilty.

Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn told WOUB that his office talked to the two victims in this case before settling on the lesser charges. He said Bellar has been cooperative and that “he is also a victim of abuse and a victim of circumstances.”

Bellar was indicted in May following an investigation into sexual abuse allegations made by one of his sisters, Serah.

Serah Bellar was reported missing in April 2020, a few weeks before her 17th birthday. She resurfaced in late April of this year through a Facebook post she made right after turning 18.

In that post she alleged a long pattern of sexual abuse and other mistreatment within her family.

Indictments were also issued against another brother, Jonathan, and against the parents, Robert and Deborah Bellar.

Jonathan Bellar, 27, is charged with gross sexual imposition and is scheduled for a pretrial hearing next week. The Bellar parents both face felony charges of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and two counts of endangering children. Their trial is scheduled to begin in March.

Blackburn said the Bellar cases represent a failure of the criminal justice system given that earlier reports of abuse within the family either were not fully investigated or did not result in any action.

Josiah Bellar’s crimes occurred when he was still a juvenile, and “had this been handled properly, it would have happened in juvenile court,” Blackburn said.

“This conviction is a continuation of the state’s allegation that the parents failed in their duty to protect their children and allowed them to commit acts of abuse,” Blackburn said in a news release. “That failure continued with their alleged obstruction of the investigation at every step.”

Josiah Bellar was sentenced Tuesday by Judge Patrick Lang to five years of community control with a four-year underlying prison sentence should he violate the terms of that control. He must also complete residential mental health and substance abuse counseling at Mended Reeds Mental Health.

Bellar was serving time in prison on other unrelated charges when he was indicted in May. His sentence on that conviction is scheduled to end on Thursday and he then will begin his new sentence. Part of Bellar’s plea includes that he testify, if needed, as the cases against his brother and parents develop.

One of the victims was in attendance and agreed with the sentencing. In a statement, delivered by Athens County First Assistant Prosecutor Meg Saunders, she said that Josiah Bellar is “a human piece of garbage.”

Josiah Bellar did not make a statement.

“I’ve been in criminal defense for 25 years … I don’t think I’ve ever heard of circumstances in a household that were as tragic as what Mr. Bellar found himself growing up in,” defense attorney Andrew Sanderson said. “I’ve often represented people from challenging backgrounds. I’ve often stood before courts and explained that that’s not an excuse for my client’s behavior but perhaps as an explanation for my client’s behavior. I don’t know if that’s ever been more true than it is (here).”

Sanderson added that Bellar accepts responsibility for his actions and has “begun to talk about things he’s never been able to talk about before.”

“He’s come to a point where he understands his circumstances are a product of his upbringing and that he needs to address those circumstances in a positive way in order to take his life on a different path,” Sanderson said.