An Abomination in Amish Country

2 Girls Kidnapped, Sexually Assaulted

Howells and Vaisey
Stephen Howells Jr. and Nicole Vaisey. Mug Shots

On August 13, 2014, two young Amish girls, were kidnapped from their family's roadside produce stand by a man and woman who offered to let the girls pet their dog. The girls were released the following day at a farm about 36 miles from their home.

Here are the latest developments of the case:

Prosecutors Seek Maximum Sentence

Nov. 27, 2015 - Prosecutors will recommend the maximum sentence for a man who admitted sexually abusing six children, including two Amish girls he and his girlfriend kidnapped in New York.

Federal prosecutors will ask that Stephen M. Howells be sentenced to 580 years.

Howells and Nicole Vaisey entered guilty pleas in May on charges that they sexually exploited children, who were drugged and filmed performing sexual acts.

Their perverted crime spree came to an end when they were arrested after kidnapping two Amish girls at their family's roadside produce stand in rural upstate New York.

"It is overwhelming to imagine the sheer terror inflicted on these young girls, taken from their family and their community, held captive for more than 24 hours, drugged, and subjected to degrading and unspeakable brutalities," assistant US attorney Lisa Fletcher wrote.

Howells, 40, and Vaisey, 26, are scheduled to be sentenced December 17.

Vaisey Admits Helping Boyfriend

May 14, 2015 - A woman accused of helping her boyfriend kidnap and sexually abuse two Amish girls suddenly decided to plea guilty during a pretrial hearing.

Nicole Vaisey pleaded guilty in federal court to 10 felonies six days after Stephen Howells pleaded guilty to 21 federal counts.

During a pretrial conference, at which a mother of one of the victims was present, Vaisey pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and nine counts of sexually exploiting children for the purpose of producing child pornography.

Their victims were between six and 11 years old.

According to court records, federal prosecutors claimed that Vaisey helped Howells find young children to abduct and "together developed and planned a scheme to kidnap minor children for use in sexually explicit conduct."

Vaisey is scheduled to be sentenced September 25 and Howells' sentencing is scheduled September 18. They both face 15 to 30 years for each charge. Because the judge has the option to give them consecutive sentences, Vaisey faces up to 300 years and Howells 630 years.

Howells Admits Sexual Abuse

May 8, 2015 - A man who along with his wife kidnapped two Amish girls from their family's roadside produce stand last year has entered a plea of guilty to drugging them and sexually assaulting them while videotaping it. Stephen Howells pleaded guilty to 21 federal charges including child pornography and possessing other illicit images.

Federal authorities said Howells used drugs to sedate six children who he sexually abused on 16 different occasions between December 2012 and August 2014. His girlfriend, Nicole Vaisey, sometimes participated in the sexual abuse, which they filmed.

"The criminal conduct committed by Stephen Howells is beyond comprehension," said U.S. Attorney Richard Hartunian.

"We will continue to do everything in our power to see that he will never abuse another innocent child."

Vaisey faces 10 federal charges in connection with the sexual abuse of children. Her trial is scheduled June 22. Howells plans to testify as a defense witness in her trial.

Both Howells and Vaisey also still face state kidnapping charges in New York, and state authorities plan to prosecute those cases.

Couple Now Facing Federal Charges

Oct. 8, 2014 - A New York couple being held for kidnapping two Amish sisters in August are now facing federal charges of sexual exploitation of children and possession of child pornography. Stephen Howells II, 39, and Nicole Vaisey, 25, are accused of sexually exploiting three girls, aged 12, 8 and 7.

Howells and Vaisey were also both indicted with one count each of conspiracy to sexually exploit children.

If found guilty, they could face 15 to 30 years in federal prison.

"The indictment charges Howells and Vaisey with enticing and coercing children to engage in sexual conduct and making a video recording of it," U.S. Attorney Richard Hartunian said in a statement.

Vaisey's attorney, Bradford Riendeau, continues to claim that his client also was a victim of Howells' abuse.

"The whole story involves my client being victimized by Mr. Howells," Riendeau said.

Aug. 16, 2014 - A Hermon, New York couple have been arrested and charged with the kidnapping and sexual assault of two young Amish girls from their family's road side farm stand. Stephen Howells Jr. and Nicole Vaisey were arrested the day after they released the 7-year-old and 12-year-old girls on a rural road near the Canadian border.

Investigators believe Howells and Vaisey were prowling for easy targets and were planning other abductions when they came upon the two girls at the roadside stand on the Miller farm in Oswegatchie, New York.

Plotting to Find Other Victims?

"We felt that there was the definite potential that there was going to be other victims," said St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells.

Sheriff Wells said at a press conference that Howells and Vaisey "were targeting opportunities" and he did not think they kidnapped the girls because they were Amish.

"There was a lot of thought process that went into this," Wells said. "They were looking for opportunities to victimize."

Amber Alert Issued Wednesday

The two girls went to the family's roadside stand to wait on customers around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday on their farm about 150 miles northwest of Albany, New York. A witness saw the passenger in the small white, four-door sedan place something in the back seat and when the car drove off, the girls were gone.

An Amber Alert was issued for the two girls and a search begun, which was somewhat hampered by the fact that no photographs of the Amish victims were available.

Sketch, Description Released

Police instead released a sketch of the older girl, created by a police artist who spoke the family's language, a German dialect known as Pennsylvania Dutch.

For the Amber Alert, the younger girl was described as having missing front teeth and the older girl was described as cross-eyed. They both were wearing dark blue dresses, blue aprons and black bonnets, police said.

Barefoot, Cold, Wet and Hungry

About 24 hours after their abduction, the two girls were dropped off on a rural road in Richville, a community about 36 miles from where they were abducted in Oswegatchie. They walked to the nearest home and knocked on the door to ask for help.

When they knocked on Jeff and Pam Stinson's door they were described as barefoot, cold, wet and hungry. The Stinsons immediately knew who the girls were from the news reports of their abduction.

Stinson Drives Girls Home

The girls asked to be taken home. Jeff Stinson knew exactly where they lived because he had purchased corn from their produce stand and the older girl had bagged it for him. Rather than call 9-1-1, Stinson decided to drive the girls home as they asked.

But first, the Stinsons gave the hungry girls something to eat. "They were hungry. They ate that watermelon in about 30 seconds!" Stinson told reporters.

As he was driving the girls home, he said they spotted a vehicle they believed belonged to their abductors and they hid under the seat of his truck, Stinson said.

Girls Help Nail Abductors

Less than 24 hours later, Howells and Vaisey were arrested. They were being held without bond until a court appearance later this week when more charges are expected to be filed.

Sheriff Wells praised the courage of the two girls for going up to a stranger's house to seek help and for providing investigators with details about their day in captivity.

"The reason why we were able to make arrests tonight was because of just how strong they are, and things that they're able to remember," the sheriff said Friday.

Couple Lawyered Up

At a Saturday press conference, St. Lawrence County District Attorney Mary Rain disclosed that the two young girls had been sexually abused during their abduction.

Shortly after their arrests, it appeared that Vaisey, 25, was trying to distant herself from her co-defendant, 39-year-old Howells.

Bradford Riendeau, Vaisey's attorney, told reporters that his client was abused by Howells, who forced her to behave submissively. He said she made a "voluntary statement" to police after her arrest and was in the process of obtaining a restraining order against him.

"She appears to have been the slave and he was the master," Riendeau said.

Howells is apparently being represented by a public defender.

News Sources:
CBS News: Abducted Amish Girls Were Sexually Abused, Prosecutor Says
ABC News: Arrests Made in Kidnapping of New York Amish Girls