National News

Hearing set in Amish girls' kidnapping in NY

These images provided by the St. Lawrence County Sheriff
These images provided by the St. Lawrence County Sheriff's Office shows the booking photo of Stephen Howells II, left, and Nicole Vaisey, who was arraigned late Friday Aug. 15, 2014 on charges they intended to physically harm or sexually abuse two Amish sisters after abducting them from a roadside farm stand. (AP Photo/St. Lawrence County Sheriff)
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By Michael Virtanen, The Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. - A woman accused along with her boyfriend of abducting two young Amish sisters from a farm stand and sexually abusing them is due in court for a preliminary hearing.

Nicole Vaisey, 25, was expected to be in court Thursday.

The couple from Hermon were arrested Friday, accused of abducting the 7-year-old and 12-year-old sisters from the family's rural farm stand near the Canadian border. The sisters turned up the next night at the door of a house 15 miles from their home.

St. Lawrence County District Attorney Mary Rain said last week that they were sexually abused and other charges are likely.

Vaisey's lawyer said she was the victim of an abusive relationship.

"She was in a master-slave relationship," with 39-year-old boyfriend Stephen Howells Jr., said attorney Bradford Riendeau. "I believe she's not as culpable as he is."

Howells waived his right to a preliminary hearing and his case will go straight to a grand jury. There was no answer late Tuesday at the county public defender's office, which is representing Howells.

The couple is in jail without bail.

The Associated Press generally does not identify victims of sexual abuse and is not naming the girls.

St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells said the couple were prowling for easy targets and may have planned to abduct other children. He said the girls were able to provide details to investigators about their time in captivity.

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