Official: Amish girls sexually abused in abduction

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A pair of investigators walk on the property of Stephen Howells II and Nicole F. Vaisey, in Hermon, N.Y., Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014. Vaisey and Howells were arrested Friday on charges of first-degree kidnapping with the intent to physically harm or sexually abuse the victims. (AP Photo/Watertown Daily Times, Melanie Kimber Lago) MANDATORY CREDIT, SYRACUSE OUT

A pair of investigators walk on the property of Stephen Howells II and Nicole F. Vaisey, in Hermon, N.Y., Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014. Vaisey and Howells were arrested Friday on charges of first-degree kidnapping with the intent to physically harm or sexually abuse the victims. (AP Photo/Watertown Daily Times, Melanie Kimber Lago) MANDATORY CREDIT, SYRACUSE OUT

St. Lawrence County Sheriff Deputy Kevin M. Wells, second left, addresses the media on Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014, outside the St. Lawrence County Courthouse in Canton, N.Y. Wells briefed the media on the arrest of suspected kidnappers Stephen M. Howells II and Nicole F. Vaisey. The couple have been accused of abducting a pair of young Amish sisters from a roadside stand in Oswegatchie, N.Y., on Wednesday, Aug. 13. At left is St. Lawerence County District Attorney Mary Rain. (AP Photo/Watertown Daily Times, Melanie Kimber Lago) MANDATORY CREDIT, SYRACUSE OUT

This image provided by the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office shows the booking photo of Stephan Howells II, 39, who was arraigned late Friday Aug. 15, 2014 on charges he intended to physically harm or sexually abuse two Amish sisters after abducting them from a roadside farm stand. (AP Photo/St. Lawrence County Sheriff)

This image provided by the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office shows the booking photo of Nicole Vaisey, 25, who was arraigned late Friday Aug. 15, 2014 on charges she intended to physically harm or sexually abuse two Amish sisters after abducting them from a roadside farm stand. (AP Photo/St. Lawrence County Sheriff)

An Amish family rides along Route 812 in Heuvelton, N.Y., near the command center at the Heuvelton Volunteer Fire Department, Friday, Aug. 15, 2014. The investigation continues into the abduction and return of two young Amish sisters who were selling vegetables at their family’s roadside stand in Oswegatchie, N.Y. Fannie and Delila were taken from the stand early Wednesday evening and turned up unharmed the next day at a home in Richville, N.Y., about 15 miles away. Taking care to not compromise a potential prosecution, authorities weren’t releasing any details about what happened to the girls during their daylong disappearance. (AP Photo/Watertown Daily Times, Jason Hunter) SYRACUSE OUT

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CANTON, N.Y. (AP) — Two young Amish sisters were sexually abused after their abduction from a roadside farm stand in northern New York, a prosecutor said Saturday.

St. Lawrence County District Attorney Mary Rain’s disclosure came hours after the county’s sheriff said the couple charged in the kidnapping were prowling for easy targets and may have planned to abduct other children.

Stephen Howells Jr. and Nicole Vaisey, both of Hermon, were arrested and arraigned Friday on charges they abducted the 7-year-old and 12-year-old sisters with the intent to physically or sexually abuse them.

“We felt that there was the definite potential that there was going to be other victims,” St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells said.

The sisters were abducted Wednesday from the farm stand in front of the family’s home in Oswegatchie, near the Canadian border. They were set free by their captors about 24 hours later and turned up safe at the door of a house 15 miles from where they were taken.

The sheriff said Howells, 39, and Vaisey, 25, “were targeting opportunities” and did not necessarily grab the girls because they were Amish.

“There was a lot of thought process that went into this,” Wells said. “They were looking for opportunities to victimize.”

The suspects are being held without bail. A preliminary court appearance is scheduled for Thursday.

Vaisey’s lawyer, Bradford Riendeau told The New York Times that Howells had abused Vaisey and treated her submissively. He said she made a “voluntary statement” to investigators after her arrest and was obtaining an order of protection against him.

“She appears to have been the slave and he was the master,” Riendeau told the newspaper.

There was no answer Saturday at the St. Lawrence County Conflict Defender’s Office, which is representing Howells.

Wells said the girls were able to provide details to investigators about their time in captivity.

The Associated Press generally does not identify people who may be victims of sexual abuse.

The kidnappings touched off a massive search in the family’s remote farming community. Searchers scoured the community of about 4,000 people, but were hampered by a lack of photos of the girls.

The Amish typically avoid modern technology, and the family had to work with an artist who spoke their language, a German dialect known as Pennsylvania Dutch, to produce a sketch of the older girl.

Associated Press

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