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Suspects Wanted Amish Girls as Slaves: Investigator

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

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    Lawrence County sheriff’s deputies escort Nicole Vaisey to her preliminary hearing Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014, at town court in Fowler, N.Y.

    A northern New York couple used a dog to lure two Amish sisters from their family farm stand with a plan to turn them into slaves, an investigator said Thursday.

    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 Justice Paul Lamson ruled Thursday there's 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 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.

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