FOWLER, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — An investigator on Thursday said an upstate couple used a dog to lure two Amish sisters from their family farm stand with a plan to turn them into slaves.
Nicole Vaisey admitted she and her boyfriend, Stephen Howells Jr., got the girls to their car with an offer to pet the dog and he shoved the 7-year-old and 12-year-old sisters in, St. Lawrence County Sherriff’s Sgt. Brooks Bigwarfe said.
Bigwarfe said she told him they shackled the girls and intended to turn them into slaves. He said they released the girls about 24 hours later, frightened by news reports.
Fowler, N.Y. Justice Paul Lamson ruled Thursday there was reasonable cause to believe Vaisey committed felony kidnapping. He ordered her held without bail.
District Attorney Mary Rain said the children were sexually abused by the “sexual predators.”
Defense attorney Bradford Riendeau said Vaisey was Howells’ slave.
“She was in a master-slave relationship,” Riendeau said. “I believe she’s not as culpable as he is.”
Howells, who also is jailed, waived his right to a hearing.
The sisters vanished last week in Oswegatchie, touching off a massive search in the farming community near the Canadian border. The girls routinely took on the chore of selling the fruits, vegetables, jams and other products of the farm and had left the rest of their family during evening milking when they saw the car at the stand.
They turned up safe Thursday night at the door of a house 15 miles from their home.
Before the girls were found, 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.
The parents, who have 14 children, did not express anger toward the suspects.
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