Athens County Courthouse

Athens County Courthouse. File photo.

Four family members related to Serah Bellar, who was reported missing on April 3 last year at the age of 16, were indicted by an Athens County Grand Jury on Tuesday. 

Robert, 54, and Deborah Bellar, 49, of Athens, parents of Serah Bellar and 17 other children, are charged with engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a second-degree felony, and two charges of endangering children, both third-degree felonies. 

The endangering children charges list Serah Bellar and another child as victims. 

“The Bellar family formed an enterprise in order to maintain control in the home, their cult-like beliefs based on their religious following, and caused physical, emotional, and psychological harm to their children,” their indictments, filed on May 18, state. 

The indictments detail an interview with the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office and Serah where she described her family’s connections to Dove Outreach, a church in Waverly led by Robert’s brother, Jim Bellar. 

“Some of the ideology that was preached by this church is that siblings are meant to procreate with one another after the apocalypse to repopulate the earth,” the indictment of Robert Bellar states.

Josiah and Jonathan Bellar, two of Serah Bellar’s brothers, are also charged. 

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. The charges allege two different juvenile victims were involved. The rape incidents are alleged to have occurred between January 2011-2014, April 2015 and 2016 and April 2008 and 2016. In addition, the gross sexual imposition incidents allegedly took place between April 2008 and 2016, according to the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office.

Jonathan Bellar, 26, was also charged with gross sexual imposition, a fourth-degree felony. One of the victims involved in the other cases is listed as a victim of Jonathan Bellar’s actions, as well, and the offense allegedly took place between April 2008 to 2016, the prosecutor’s office reported.

Serah Bellar, originally of Amesville, resurfaced in late April with a Facebook post from an account under a fake name. In the since-removed post, she said she wanted to wait until she was 18 years old to come forward. 

The Facebook post outlined multiple allegations, including sexual assault, involving the Bellar family.

The Athens County Sheriff’s Office positively identified Bellar and assisted with search warrants, while Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn launched an investigation with the cooperation of other law enforcement agencies, his office stated in a press release.

According to the indictment against Robert and Deborah Bellar, the two obstructed justice, tampered with evidence and conspired to conceal sexual abuse within the home. Athens County Children Services received reports in February 2017, May 2018 and April 2020 that sexual abuse was occurring in the Bellar home.

Despite these reports and records provided by Athens County Children Services and the Athens County Child Advocacy Center, no formal action was taken, the prosecutor’s office stated. 

“There was an absolute systematic failure in handling these accusations,” Blackburn said in a media statement. “Serah was turned away by authorities every time she tried to report this abuse. Fearing for her continued safety, she left the state and was victimized again by those who she thought were helping her.” 

During the investigation, Blackburn and other investigators traveled to Bellar’s location in Georgia. With the help of Sheriff Alvie Lee Kight Jr. and the Toombs County Sheriff’s Office, as well as the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, two other individuals, Jerry and Shayna Chadwick, were taken into custody and charged with interfering with custody. 

Deborah Bellar has been taken into custody, the prosecutor’s office said. A nationwide arrest warrant has been issued for Robert Bellar. 

The case remains under investigation.

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