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New York State Couple Charged In Abduction Of Amish Girls

The booking photos of Stephen Howells II and Nicole Vaisey, who were charged Friday in the kidnapping of two Amish girls.
St. Lawrence County Sheriff's Office
The booking photos of Stephen Howells II and Nicole Vaisey, who were charged Friday in the kidnapping of two Amish girls.

Updated at 1:00 p.m. ET.

A couple from upstate New York has been charged with two counts of first-degree kidnapping in connection with the abduction of two Amish girls from a roadside farm stand earlier this week.

Stephen Howells II, 39, and Nicole Vaisey, 25, appeared in a court in Albany late Friday with their lawyers, but were not allowed to enter a plea, The Associated Press reports. They were ordered held without bond.

By way of background, the AP writes:

"The 7-year-old and 12-year-old vanished Wednesday evening in Oswegatchie, touching off a massive search in the farming community near the Canadian border.

"They turned up safe about 24 hours later at the door of a house 15 miles from where they were taken. ...

"Searchers had scoured the farming community of about 4,000 people, in a hunt hampered by a lack of photos of the girls for authorities to circulate."

Sheriff Kevin Wells said in a statement that the older of the two Amish girls was able to provide crucial information that led to the arrest of the couple.

Wells later told reporters: "The motive was to victimize children."

"The girls have been victims of crimes. That's the only detail we'll give," he said.

The St. Lawrence County Sheriff's Office issued a statement late Friday saying the arrests of Howells and Vaisey "no doubt saved young children from future abuse." But District Attorney Mary Rain declined to discuss a possible motive.

Rain said that the suspects had agreed to go to the sheriff's office to be interviewed earlier on Friday, "and they were arrested after those interviews."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.

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