ATHENS COUNTY, Ohio — Athens County and a former sheriff’s deputy reached a $420,000 settlement agreement with an Amesville woman formerly known as Serah Bellar, related to claims in her federal lawsuit that the county was complicit in her yearslong abuse.
The county and former sheriff’s deputy Jimmy Childs were dismissed from the case as part of the settlement agreement, obtained by the Independent through a records request. (Bellar has kept her new name private; the Independent redacted it from the settlement agreement and refers to her here by her former name.)
Bellar accused Childs of covering up multiple reports she made of abuse due to his ties with her biological parents, who attended the Waverly, Ohio-based Dove Outreach church run by her uncle.
The church allegedly preached that siblings are meant to procreate. Childs eventually resigned, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and gave up his state police certification. The lawsuit also alleged that Childs sexually harassed Bellar himself when she was 14, which Childs denied in court records.
Bellar also alleged that Athens County Children Services failed to take action when responding to reports of abuse at the family home. The county denied wrongdoing. Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn previously described children services’ response as “an absolute systemic failure.”
The settlement agreement releases the county and Childs from any other claims related to the lawsuit. The agreement notes that claims in the case remain “disputed and unproven,” and that the agreement was “reached in the interest of economic purposes and judicial economy only.”
Bellar’s attorney, Michael Fradin, declined to comment on the settlement agreement.
Bellar’s biological family members (Deborah Bellar, Robert Bellar and James Bellar with the Dove Outreach church) remain defendants in the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.
Fradin said, “We understand the difficulty of getting any sort of recovery from individual defendants, but we’re not certain in terms of what we’re going to do with the litigation.”
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Requests for comment sent to attorneys for the county and Childs went unreturned by press time.
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