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New York couple planned to turn Amish girls into slaves, police say

St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s deputies escort Nicole Vaisey, 25, into Fowler Town Court for her preliminary hearing, Thursday, Aug 21, 2014, in Fowler, N.Y. Vaisey and Stephen Howells II are charged with abducting and sexually abusing two young Amish sisters as the girls worked their family’s roadside vegetable stand in Oswegatchie, N.Y. on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014.

Jason Hunter/ASSOCIATED PRESS

A northern New York couple kidnapped two Amish sisters from their family farm stand and planned to turn them into slaves, but released them after becoming frightened by news reports, an investigator said.

St. Lawrence County Sherriff's Sgt. Brooks Bigwarfe said Thursday that Nicole Vaisey admitted she and her boyfriend, Stephen Howells Jr., lured the 7-year-old and 12-year-old sisters to their car with an offer to pet a dog and then Howells shoved them in.

Bigwarfe said she told him they shackled the girls and intended to turn them into slaves, but released them about 24 hours later after hearing news reports of the kidnapping.

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District Attorney Mary Rain said the children were sexually abused by the "sexual predators."

Fowler Justice Paul Lamson ruled Thursday there's reasonable cause to believe Vaisey committed felony kidnapping. He ordered her held without bail.

Howells, who also is jailed, waived his right to a hearing.

Defence 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."

The girls' kidnappings touched off a massive search in the Amish 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.

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The parents, who have 14 children, did not express anger toward the suspects.

The girls' father said Thursday at his farm that they seemed to be doing well.

The family's farm stand was open again.

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