The two Amish sisters from northern New York who were kidnapped this week and then found safe a day later were sexually assaulted, the St. Lawrence County's District Attorneys office told NBC News. Investigators believe suspects Stephen M. Howells II, 39, and Nicole F. Vaisey, 25 had planned the kidnapping using “coercion tactics” and knew ahead of time they wanted to take the girls, St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells told reporters Saturday. Howells and Vaisey are being held without bail on first-degree kidnapping charges in the abduction and could face 25 years to life in prison if convicted. Wells added that “there was the definite potential” for additional victims, and the suspects could be hit with more charges.
Bradford Riendeau, an attorney for Howells and Vaisey, told NBC News that the two live together and have a “complicated” relationship. Previously, the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office said the sisters, ages 12 and 7, provided investigators with “crucial information” that helped police locate Howells' and Vaisey's home in Hermon, New York, roughly 30 miles from the town of Oswegatchie where the girls live. NBC News does not name possible victims of sexual assault.
The sisters were kidnapped while working at their family’s roadside farmstand Wednesday. About 24 hours later — under unexplained circumstances — they were dropped off in Richville, a nearby town, where the girls knocked on a home for help. The homeowner recognized them and brought them back to their family's home before contacting police. Wells said the sisters are in “good health.”
— Jacob Passy and Hallie Jackson
First published August 16 2014, 7:34 AM