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Prosecutor: 4 indicted for 'ongoing sexual abuse' in Athens County

Prosecutor Keller Blackburn said, "There was an absolute systematic failure in handling these accusations."
Credit: Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction and Southeast Ohio Regional Jail
Jonathan, Josiah and Deborah Bellar

ATHENS COUNTY, Ohio — Four members of a family have been indicted on charges related to an "ongoing sexual abuse" case, according to Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn.

Blackburn said the sexual abuse investigation started when a now 18-year-old woman, who is alleged to be one of the victims, posted online about several allegations, including sexual assault.

Robert Bellar, 54, and Deborah Bellar, 49, husband and wife, are charged with engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a second-degree felony, and two charges of endangering children, both third-degree felonies.

A nationwide arrest warrant was issued for Robert Bellar.  On Wednesday the Southeast Ohio Regional Jail confirmed he was in custody at the facility.

Deborah Bellar was arraigned on Wednesday and is being held on a $1 million bond.

Josiah Bellar, 24, was indicted on three counts of rape, each first-degree felonies, and two counts of gross sexual imposition, both fourth-degree felonies.  Blackburn said the alleged incidents happened between 2011 and 2016.

Josiah is in custody at the Warren Correctional Institution after being sentenced in 2017 on theft, robbery, having a weapon under disability and forgery.

Josiah's brother, 26-year-old Jonathan Bellar is charged with gross sexual imposition from an incident that happened between 2008 and 2016.

According to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, Jonathan is on adult parole supervision after serving time in prison on charges of escape, robbery and breaking & entering.

Jonathan Bellar is in custody at the Southeast Ohio Regional Jail.

Blackburn said sexual abuse within the home was reported to the Athens County Children Services (ACCS) in February 2017, May 2018 and April 2020 but neither ACCS or the Athens County Child Advocacy Center (CAC) took formal action.

In emailed statements on Wednesday, the ACCS and CAC said the agencies cannot talk about details about specific cases because they need to protect the identity of those involved.

“There was an absolute systematic failure in handling these accusations," Blackburn said in a release.

"(The alleged victim) was turned away by authorities every time she tried to report the abuse," Blackburn said.

“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. 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,” said Athens County Children Services spokesperson Robin Webb.

Webb added the agency is focused on investigating all allegations of suspected abuse and neglect.

"I am proud of my team and the work we do. My staff provide comfort and support for children on what is often one of the worst days of their lives. I am saddened that the commitment of the CAC to child safety has been called into question. We take every allegation of abuse seriously. We do not have the authority to make decisions about what happens after an interview at our agency. We continue to work together with our multidisciplinary team partners to promote health, safety, justice and healing for child survivors of abuse," said CAC director Melissa Greenlee.

Blackburn said the alleged victim feared for her safety and left the state before she posted the allegations online.

When she was located, investigators also arrested and charged two people, Jerry and Shayna Chadwick, with interfering in custody.