Kidnappers who abducted two young Amish girls – a 12-year-old and her younger 7-year-old sister – planned to kidnap additional Amish girls, investigators said. The girls were snatched Wednesday by a couple who were prowling Amish country in upstate New York, and who grabbed the young girls from a roadside farm stand.
Reports ABC News: “A northern New York couple used ‘coercion tactics’ to lure two Amish sisters into their car during a kidnapping, the St. Lawrence County sheriff said today, a day after the couple was arrested. Police arrested Stephen Howells II, 39, and Nicole Vaisey, 25, both of Hermon, late Friday. They were each charged with two counts of first-degree kidnapping, indicating that they intended to physically harm or sexually abuse the girls.”
Delila Miller and her older sister Fannie were abducted near their family home in Heuvelton, approximately 50 miles south of the Canadian border. An Amber Alert was issued for the girls, taken by the couple in a white, 4-door sedan. The girls were released 24 hours later, apparently abandoned along a road in Richville, about 40 miles from their home.
“The children walked up to a home, knocked on the door of a stranger,” St. Lawrence County District Attorney Mary Rain said. “The stranger brought them home to their house and police were waiting.”
St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells said the girls were “a little wet and cold,” but otherwise appeared to be healthy.
“We have two strong young girls,” Wells said. “The reason we're able to make an arrest tonight is because of just how strong they are and things they're able to remember.”
After being released, the girls walked to the nearby home of Jeff and Pam Stinson. They were barefoot, cold and hungry.
Says ABC News: “The Stinsons opened their door to the two girls, who asked the couple to drive them back home. The Stinsons said they recognized the girls because they had bought produce from them before and were aware of news reports about their abduction. When the girls arrived on their doorstep, the Stinsons fed them watermelon and grape juice and the girls were so hungry they couldn't stop eating the watermelon.”
“They ate that watermelon in 30 seconds. It was fast,” said Jeff Stinson, who has purchased vegetables from the family’s produce stand in the past.
Investigators have since concluded that the girls were assaulted sexually by Howells and Vaisey.
Reports the Los Angeles Times:
Stephen Howell II, 39, and Nicole Vaisey, 25, are charged with kidnapping the girls. Rain said Howell and Vaisey had been charged with first-degree kidnapping rather than sexual assault because in New York the first-degree charge applies if kidnapping victims suffer an injury or sexual assault.
The girls were able to lead detectives to the couple’s home in Hermon, where they were held. Det. Sgt. Brooks Bigwarfe of the St. Lawrence County Sheriff's Office said the abductors may have been involved in prior kidnappings, and said it’s likely they would have continued to abduct children.
“We're looking into other information that there may have possibly been attempts,” Bigwarfe said. “The arrest of the two persons have with no doubt saved other young children from future abuse at the hands of these two.”
The kidnappers face 25 years in prison. They are being held without bail.