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Josiah Bellar enters guilty plea

Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 5:08 PM EST
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Athens, Ohio (WTAP) - An Athens County sexual assault investigation has seen its first conviction.

The Athens County Prosecutor’s Office says Josiah Bellar, 24, pleaded guilty to charges of felonious assault and child endangering in Athens County Common Pleas Court on Tuesday.

Bellar was charged alongside his brother, 27-year-old Jonathan, and parents, 54-year-old Robert and 49-year-old Deborah, in a sexual assault investigation that evolved from allegations made by his sister.

Sarah Bellar went missing as a juvenile but resurfaced as an adult with numerous allegations of abuse by members of her family.

Prosecutors say Josiah “committed abusive acts” against two children under his parents’ supervision while he was also a minor.

His defense attorney says Josiah has accepted responsibility for his actions and knows that he is a “product of his upbringing.”

“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,” said defense attorney Andrew Sanderson. “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 says Josiah now needs to find a way to address his upbringing in a positive way and take his life in a better direction.

He was sentenced to five years of community control and has to complete a residential mental health and substance abuse counseling program through Mended Reeds Mental Health.

If he fails to follow the rules of community control, he faces a four-year prison sentence.

Prosecutors say Serah Bellar was in court Tuesday for the sentencing and agreed with it.

Josiah will also have to testify, if need be, in the other cases tied to the sexual assault investigation.

Robert and Deborah Bellar are behind bars on $1 million bonds while they await a trial scheduled for March 1, 2022.

They have each been charged with engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and two counts of endangering children.

Jonathan Bellar was already behind bars on separate charges when he was indicted in the sexual assault investigation.

He has a pretrial hearing on December 7, 2021.

You can read more about the investigation here.

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