As if kidnapping two young Amish sisters wasn't enough, authorities announced that abduction was just part of their plans for the girls that went missing from Oswegatchie, New York, Wednesday evening. The couple had intended to "victimize" them all along, police said, according to an Associated Press report Aug. 17.
St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells told reporters that the couple Stephen Howells, 39, and Nicole Vaisey, 25, had carefully planned their every move. They were looking for "opportunities to victimize," he said. Their motive was "to take these girls from their home and to victimize these girls."
Wells did not elaborate as to what sort of victimization had been in store for sisters Delila and Fannie Miller, aged seven and 12, respectively. The sheriff also gave no details as to how the girls had been treated during their time with their kidnappers.
However, according to St. Lawrence County District Attorney Mary Rain, Howells and Vaisey sexually abused the girls before letting them go, .
According to Agence France-Presse (via Yahoo News) the girls were taken Wednesday evening while selling fruits and vegetables in a farming community in New York state not far from the Canadian border. They were missing an entire day and were found barefoot and hungry in the town of Richville -- 30 miles away. They had been dropped off in town by their abductors. Going to a nearby house, they knocked on the door and asked for help.
Although it was unclear as to why Stephen Howells and Nicole Vaisey dropped off the girls when they did, the fact that they did so was somewhat fortuitous in that the investigation was hampered by not having photos of the girls -- an unfortunate byproduct of the Amish faith of their community. Their particular faith forbids the taking of photographs.
However, as the Associated Press noted, a sketch artist was able to render likenesses of the sisters from descriptions provided by the family.
Wells noted that the young girls had remained "strong" throughout their ordeal and that it was their observations that led investigators to the abductors. He said that the Miller sisters were able to provide "facts about their time in captivity and those details were instrumental in us being able to make the arrests."
Howells and Vaisey were subsequently charged with kidnapping after their arrests on Friday. More charges are expected.
Wells said Saturday that there was reason to believe that Stephen Howells and Nicole Vaisey would not have stopped with just the kidnapping of the two sisters. "We felt that there was the definite potential that there was going to be other victims," he said.