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Ky-Lea Fortner, Shaeleen Fitch-Fortner Found Nearly a Year After Disappearance

by Alexander Smith and Christopher Nelson /
Ky-Lea Fortner(L) and Shaeleen Fitch-Fortner.New York State Police

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Two teenage sisters have been found in upstate New York nearly a year after vanishing and a family acquaintance has been charged with their kidnapping, police said Thursday.

 Ky-Lea Fortner(L) and Shaeleen Fitch-Fortner. New York State Police

Ky-Lea Fortner and Shaeleen Fitch-Fortner were reported as "teen runaways" last April. The girls — then aged 15 and 13 — had been living with a foster family in Binghamton when they disappeared and were last seen waiting for a bus at their school, according to New York State Police.

They were found Wednesday night about 15 miles away from where they were last seen at a property in the nearby town of Vestal, state police said in a statement Thursday.

Police said Amanda Hellman, a 29-year-old "family acquaintance," was arrested at the property Thursday on suspicion of kidnapping second degree, a class-B felony. Hellman was arraigned before a judge and remanded without bail to the Broome County Jail, in Binghamton.

 Amanda Hellman. New York State Police

Officials launched a hunt for the sisters after they were last seen waiting for a bus at Susquehanna Valley High School on April 27 of last year.

During the 11-month investigation, police said they "received and investigated numerous investigative leads relative to the girls' location," which led them to Hellman's address in Vestal.

The sisters have now been turned over to Broome County Family Services.

A neighbor of Hellman's told the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin he frequently saw the girls outside and saw no signs of "duress."

"On nice days they'd be out walking," said Randy Wike.

One of the girls was often out riding her bike — even when it was snowing, he said.

But neither girl was very chatty, said Wike. "It was all I could do to get a hello out of them," he said.

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