Parents of Serah Bellar, who alleged a long history of sexual abuse, are sentenced to prison

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — The parents of a former Athens County woman who alleged a long history of sexual abuse in the family home while growing up were sentenced to prison Thursday.

Deborah Bellar
Deborah Bellar [Athens County Prosecutor’s Office]
Robert Bellar
Robert Bellar [Athens County Prosecutor’s Office]
Robert Bellar, 55, and Deborah Bellar, 50, both pleaded guilty to one count each of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and endangering children.

Robert was sentenced to three years on each charge and Deborah was sentenced to four years on the first charge and three years on the second. Their sentences on the two charges will be served concurrently, and they will get credit for the 10 months they have spent in jail while their cases were pending.

The parents, who were scheduled for trial in May, had faced up to eight years in prison on the corrupt activity charge and up to three years on the endangering children charge.

Before the sentencing, First Assistant Prosecutor Meg Saunders made a brief statement on behalf of Serah Bellar, who made the allegations against her parents and other members of her family.

Saunders said Serah had her childhood robbed of her and that knowing her parents will be incarcerated brought her some peace of mind.

The parents had each faced an additional charge of endangering children involving another of their children, but that charge was dropped as part of the plea agreement.

“Today was a long time coming,” Mike Fradin, an attorney representing Serah in a civil lawsuit she recently filed against her parents and others, said in a prepared statement. “We are grateful for the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office for listening to Serah and putting these two in prison. We only wish that other agencies would have acted sooner.”

Serah’s accusations first surfaced in a long Facebook post she made last April right after she turned 18 – one year after she had been reported missing after running away from home.

That post prompted investigations that led to the indictments a month later against her parents and two of her brothers. One brother, Josiah, who was charged with three counts of rape, pleaded guilty to lesser charges in November. Another brother, Jonathan, is awaiting trial on charges of gross sexual imposition.

Serah’s civil lawsuit also names Athens County among the defendants because reports of sexual abuse in the Bellar home were brought to Athens County Children Services on at least three occasions, in February 2017, May 2018 and April 2020. It appears that none of these led to a formal investigation.

Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn said last year that Serah’s case represented an “absolute systemic failure in the handling of these accusations.”

In a prepared statement after Thursday’s sentencing, Blackburn said: “Serah needed someone to listen to her and to believe her. She is a strong young woman who has a lot of healing to do.”