A man and a woman have been arraigned on charges they intended to physically harm or sexually abuse two Amish sisters after abducting them from a roadside farm stand in northern New York State earlier this week, authorities are saying.
Stephen Howells, 39, and Nicole Vaisey, 25, of Hermon, N.Y., were each charged Friday with two counts of first-degree kidnapping, St. Lawrence County, N.Y., District Attorney Mary Rain said. They appeared in court with lawyers, but were not allowed to enter a plea. A town justice ordered them jailed without bond, and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for Thursday.
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."
Sheriff Kevin Wells said in a statement that the older of the two girls provided "crucial information" that led to the arrests.
District Attorney Mary Rain declined to discuss a motive for the abduction or provide any other specifics about the suspects. She said information provided by the girls helped lead to Howells and Vaisey. The suspects' home is about 13 miles from where the girls live.
"The suspects agreed to go to the sheriff's office to be interviewed earlier today and they were arrested after those interviews," Rain said.
More information was expected to be released at a news conference Saturday morning.
The girls, 7 and 12, turned up cold and wet but unharmed at a home in Richville, N.Y., about 13 miles from where they vanished after apparently being abducted by two people driving a small white sedan who pulled up to the family's roadside vegetable stand in Oswegatchie, N.Y., Rain said on Thursday.
The girls approached the vehicle, according to earlier reports, and a witness reported seeing the passenger in the sedan throw something in the back seat of the vehicle, WSYR-TV reported.
The two girls were apparently tending the stand while the rest of the family was in the barn milking, WWNY-TV reported.
The St. Lawrence County Sheriff's Office issued an AMBER alert for the girls, who were both wearing dark blues dresses with blue apron and black bonnets.
Oswegatchie, with a populaton of just over 4,000 people, is about 95 miles northeast of Syracuse near the Canadian border.
Contributing: The Associated Press