Athens couple with 18 children plead guilty to corruption charges

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ATHENS, OH – An Athens couple and two of their children were charged on various accounts, but this week, Robert Bellar, 55, and Deborah Bellar, 50, both pleaded guilty to engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a second-degree felony, and endangering children, a third-degree felony.

According to a statement released today, Athens County Judge Pat Lang sentenced Deborah Bellar to four years in prison on engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and ordered a three-year sentence on endangering children to run concurrently. Her husband, Robert, was sentenced to three years in prison with the charges also ordered to run concurrent to each other.

The case began in 2020 when Serrah Bellar, a child of the couple who was or reported missing in 2020 appeared on social media under a pseudonym and made a number of allegations — including sexual assault — against the Bellar family.

The investigation led Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn, Chief Assistant Prosecutor Liz Pepper, First Assistant Prosecutor Meg Saunders and Chief Investigator Jay Barrett to Georgia to locate and interview Serah Bellar.

“To ensure Serah Bellar’s safety, Blackburn requested investigators Reuben Kittle and Trent Eskey drive Bellar back to Ohio and locate a safe place to stay,” the Athens Police Department said in a statement.

“In the meantime, two brothers of the Bellars’ 18 children were charged in relation to the investigation. Josiah Bellar, 24, pleaded guilty in November to felonious assault and child endangering and was sentenced to five years of community control with a four-year underlying prison sentence should he re-offend. The case against Jonathan Bellar, 27, is still pending. He is charged with gross sexual imposition,” according to a statement by the APD.

Additionally, the investigation led to charges being filed against now-former Athens County Sheriff’s Office deputy Jimmy Childs.

Childs pleaded guilty in July to a bill of information charging disorderly conduct. During the investigation, Childs received a call from Robert Bellar and deleted that record while also neglecting to inform his supervisor of the call. He was ordered to surrender his peace officer’s certificate, the state alleged against Childs.

“Today was a long time coming,” said Mike Fradin, an attorney representing Serah Bellar. “Serah is happy to see the action be punished and will continue her fight.”

“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,” he added.

When the investigation was launched, Blackburn lamented what happened to Serah Bellar, saying, “There was an absolute systematic failure in handling these accusations.”

“At every step of this investigation, adults who have committed crimes against children have been arrested and charged. Now, the two whose primary responsibility was protecting the two victims of abuse are headed to prison,” Blackburn said Thursday.

“Serah needed someone to listen to her and to believe her,” he added. “She is a strong young woman who has a lot of healing to do. I hate that this, all of this, happened to her but I’m proud that my office and staff could do their part to help deliver her justice.”