Local news outlets are reporting that two Amish girls in upstate New York have been abducted while tending their family’s produce stand (Note: since the girls have now been found, the Amber Alert info, artist’s sketch, news station videos, and the girls’ names, originally included with this post, have been removed).
The St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s office has activated the Amber Alert for New York state.
The thing you don’t want to think about–but which I found myself inevitably thinking about–is what happened in that schoolhouse in Nickel Mines.
Amish children are different–some are shy and reserved around outsiders. Others belie that stereotype.
All things being equal, Amish children from plainer and more isolated groups are usually more reserved.
They tend to have less contact with non-Amish. The worldview of those groups also tends to be more insular, or maybe “inward-looking” is a better term.
This is the Heuvelton Amish settlement, a very plain Swartzentruber Amish community of around 1,800 located on the Canadian border.
However, it sounds like these girls were accustomed to attending to customers at the family’s roadside stand, so they no doubt had some comfort level around non-Amish people. According to WWNY TV:
The family was in the barn milking, and the two girls left the barn to go to the family’s roadside vegetable stand, because they believed a customer was there.
That’s when the abduction apparently took place. The information about the white car came from a passing Amish, who told investigators he saw a white vehicle by the stand at about the time the abduction took place.
A witness saw the passenger of the car throw something in back, then get in the back seat.
The St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department, state police and the Border Patrol were all investigating Wednesday night, and road blocks were set up. A state police forensics unit has been called in, as has a K9 unit.
There really is no way of knowing what’s going on here, but your mind veers to the worst. One can only hope the girls are recovered safely.
The full Amber Alert information with descriptions of the girls is below (Update: Amber Alert info removed; girls were found Thursday evening). Anyone with information should call the sheriff’s department (315-379-2222) or 911.
UPDATE (1:41 PM): A WWNY TV story this AM tells of authorities getting several leads from the public, though they haven’t led to anything concrete yet.
Also, for reasons unknown, Sheriff Kevin Wells has inserted a small amount of uncertainty into yesterday’s description of a “confirmed child abduction”:
At an 11 a.m. news conference, Wells stepped back a little from calling it an abduction, even though Wednesday night’s Amber Alert called it a “confirmed child abduction.”
He said, however, that it’s “a very strong possibility.”
Close to 200 police, forest rangers and Border Patrol officers are working to locate the girls. Dive teams were called in to search the nearby Oswegatchie River.
The girls were of course dressed in Amish clothes when they disappeared, but that may no longer be the case. More:
“If it was an abduction, these girls don’t have to be dressed in Amish clothes anymore,” Wells said.
He noted that “lots of sex offenders” have been interviewed.
State Sen. Patty Ritchie of Heuvelton visited the Miller family Thursday morning and spoke with the missing children’s father.
She was visibly shaken following her conversation, tearfully telling 7 News reporter John Friot “I can’t believe something this horrible could happen in my backyard.”
A state police forensic team is expected on-scene Thursday morning to examine tire tracks left by the suspect vehicle.
Since no photos are available, a sketch artist has been called in to create images of the girls.
UPDATE 2: (2:15 PM) Video of St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells discussing the case.
“The Amish community is always cooperative with us and forthcoming. They communicate among each other very, very well. You’d be surprised how quick word spreads,” he says.
He is asked about the possibility of it being an “inside job” committed by someone who had left the community. Sheriff Wells: “There’s no indication of that at this time.”
He’s also asked if the girls could have left on their own. He says that is “highly improbable” give the children’s ages (12 and 6).
The sheriff’s message for the public: “Don’t wait and think that somebody else has called the police,” he says. “If you see something, say something. Be an active community member.”
He also suggests that the perpetrator could be mobile today, even though the girls disappeared yesterday evening. “Those first few hours are crucial.”
Update 3 (4:26 PM): Police have released a sketch of the older girl (Update: sketch and identifying info has been removed since the girls have been found).
Update 4 (10:20 PM): Reports have emerged that the two missing girls have been found alive. Via ABC News:
The sisters were dropped off in the town of Richville, about 36 miles from where they were abducted, District Attorney Mary Rain said. The girls walked to the closest home and the man who opened the door immediately knew who the girls were because of news reports.
The girls asked the man to take them home, Rain told ABC News.
The two young girls have been reunited with their family. They “seem to be healthy,” but were “cold and wet,” the DA told ABC News, and that they are being interviewed by authorities.
Rain said the sisters were still wearing the Amish attire when they were found. She also said that more than one person may have been involved in the girls’ abduction.
Further information, with slightly conflicting details, in this report from WWNY TV:
Friot reports the two girls were abducted by two men, who took them to a home in Bigelow, a hamlet near Richville at about 8:30 pm and left them there, telling the girls not to leave.
Instead, the girls fled, and went looking for help. They were found by a man a source identifies as Jeff Stinson, who returned them to their home.
Friot says the girls were cold and wet, but otherwise ok.
The two kidnappers remain at large.
Update 5 (11:57 AM Fri): Photos of the stand and farm.
Update 6 (12:19 AM Sat): A man and a woman have been arrested and charged in the abduction of the girls. From the New York Times:
The couple, Stephen Howells II, 39, and his girlfriend, Nicole Vaisey, 25, of Hermon, N.Y., were questioned by the police Friday night and were charged with kidnapping, according to Mary E. Rain, the St. Lawrence County district attorney.
“I can’t go into what they’re saying or what info they’re providing us with,” Ms. Rain said earlier. She raised the possibility of additional charges.
She would not comment on investigators’ views of why the couple had taken the girls, on whether they had abused them or if they had played a role in their eventually being freed on Thursday night. The couple live off County Route 21, within 20 miles of where the girls had been abducted.
Howells and Vaisey were charged with first-degree kidnapping, which could mean 25 years to life in prison.
More details have come out on how the girls made it to safety, finding their way to the doorstep of Jeff and Pam Stinson. Via ABC News:
When the girls arrived on their doorstep, the Stinsons fed them watermelon and grape juice and the girls were so hungry they couldn’t stop eating the watermelon.
“They ate that watermelon in 30 seconds. It was fast,” said Jeff Stinson.
Jeff Stinson knew exactly where the two girls lived because he had bought corn from the elder girl before at their vegetable stand.
At one point on the return home, the girls ducked in the back seat because they saw the kidnapper’s red car pulled over by the side of the road, the Stinsons said.
I found the last detail confusing, as the initial description had been of a white car. Of course, the alleged kidnappers could own more than one vehicle.
Update 7 (Sat 8:37 PM): I hate to share that this story just got a lot more awful. The New York Times is reporting that the girls were sexually abused:
Mary E. Rain, St. Lawrence County’s district attorney, said late Saturday evening that the girls, ages 7 and 12, had been abused. In a news conference on Saturday, Kevin M. Wells, the St. Lawrence County sheriff, portrayed the kidnapping as an opportunistic crime that emerged out of a longer-standing plan to abuse children. The couple did not previously know the sisters, Sheriff Wells said, nor did they approach the girls because they were Amish.
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Two Amish girls abducted in New York
I prayed that the two sisters will be found alive and unharmed.
Please do likewise.
Prayers for the Girls and Their Family
Our hearts and prayers go out to the girls and their family. Prayers for a speedy and safe recovery.
Just a month ago my wife and I stopped at an Amish family homemade baskets shed-shop within a Swartzentruber community. The children (5 of them, all under the age of 13, I think) ran out to ‘wait’ on us, while the parents remained busy inside. The kids were all eager and smiles and eating up the attention we gave in just interacting with them. I could see how naivety to the evils of this world coupled with such innocent interest in outsiders could make these very easy targets. So very sad.
May not be such easy targets
That may be true. However there are factors in their favor protecting them in ways others might not be.
Given their large families, there are a lot more eyes potentially on the lookout per household in Amish communities. It was an Amish person who gave the description of the vehicle.
In rural areas you also have a lot fewer vehicles passing by to take note of, vs. a suburban or urban area. And the Amish do cooperate with the police, as this sheriff notes about even this very conservative group.
Word gets out quickly in Amish communities, which can help if there is someone odd or suspicious about. Everyone knows everyone else, and they talk frequently (not like my suburban neighborhood at all).
This may all increase the chances of someone being caught. It seems most if not all of the crime-against-Amish stories we’ve been seeing lately end up with the perpetrator in custody.
Following this, I also think a lot of Amish parents will be talking to their children about being careful around strangers.
Agreed..., and sketch question
Oh, I totally agree that there are a number of factors that are on the plus side. As one who regularly takes pictures of Amish homes and other things, only to get home and look at the images and find that there were Amish eyes watching me (that I was unaware of), I totally see your point. My point was only that I could see how it would be easy in some cases to take advantage of the children themselves.
I was watching a clip about the investigation. (http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/police-search-missing-ny-amish-girls-24974954) It said that (obviously) there were not photographs of the girls to help the search. The police were allowed to make a sketch of the older girl, but not of the younger. That one has me a bit baffled — and I would appreciate anyone’s thought on it. My reasoning is that if it’s wrong for one, then it’s wrong for both; if it is a concession in order to help the girls with the one, then it would be even more helpful to have both. Is there something here that I’m not seeing?
Thanks for updates
Don, do you think it might have anything to do with the scar on the younger girl’s forehead?
Erik, thank you for these updates and the sketch! The second video “is not currently available,” it says.
Hmmm, not sure why it’s not showing here.
It’s still up on the station website: http://www.localsyr.com/story/d/story/raw-interview-the-st-lawrence-county-sheriff-discu/22725/Xa9hyRLg2E2mS64VV_FfVQ
Video working, one sketch, prayers
Sorry to bother you. Yes, it is working. I clicked on the arrow and it started.
Maybe one sketch is sort of a compromise for the family, on one hand having zero photos, but not wanting two sketches.
Prayers for the girls, their parents, law enforcement, and the softening of hearts of the possible abductors.
Guess I’ve missed or overlooked any comment about a scar. But it would seem that an identifying mark like that would be even more helpful. And I noticed that the spokesman specifically stated that it was the *police* and not the family that were releasing the sketch. Sounded to me that there might be religious beliefs involved in that as well.
Don I just saw that, that they only wanted to do the sketch of the older girl. I am puzzled by that as well. The decision came from the family:
“He added that it was the family’s decision to not have an artist’s rendering of their younger girl.”
(Note: this comment edited to remove identifying details, since the girls have been found)
Okay, I saw the description, but apparently read over that last part too fast. Thanks.
Here is the sketch of the older sister:
The accompanying article tells that the family decided to allow the sketch of the one “out of concern for their daughter” — noticeably NOT plural. It then states that the family didn’t allow the other daughter to be sketched “because of their beliefs” — with the differences left unexplained.
Reading the article highlighted a new twist (in my mind). The younger girl apparently speaks on PA Dutch, while the older girl does speak English. Inability to understand what is being said all around her probably intensifies the problem for the little one (although, I suppose in some ways it might also insulate her from knowing some things being discussed).
That’s interesting Don. I have been reading various articles trying to pick up more on that.
I wonder if it wasn’t just a compromise on the part of the parents–we don’t want images but we’ll do a sketch one of the girls under the assumption that they are together and that might be enough (though that wouldn’t necessarily be the case).
I’m just glad the second sketch wasn’t necessary. I also hope nothing was done to these girls in the roughly 24 hours they were gone. Hopefully the abductors lost their nerve for whatever plans they might have had, or somehow had a change of heart. The emotional trauma of being stolen from your family must be immense just by itself.
Prayers for the girls and their families
I will put the amish girls and their families on the prayer list at church. It is a crying shame that their are creeps out there like that. I hope that they are found safe and alive. Those fanilies do no wrong they just live their according to their beliefs just like my family. We were brought up to respect other peoples values and beliefs. Lori
Prayers for their safe return.
Thank you for sharing…I live in New York and posted on Facebook.
Posted to Facebook I am in Central New Jersey near the NJ Parkway and Turnpike. Hope some truckers get a handle on this.
Praying for those precious girls that they will be found safe and be able to return to their families. It’s so very sad that someone would do this.
Praying in North Carolina for God’s comforting arms.
Praying for the little girls and their family and church. This just wrenches the heart.
Lord please protect the girls and bring them home safe and unharmed.
Protect them from any physical, mental or emotional harm.
Provide their family and community with a strong sense of your peace and tangible comfort for their hearts.
Will also post on FB in PA.
Praying for these two dear girls and will continue. Bless their families
Prayers for these two sisters to be safe and returned home to their family.
What a shock, seeing this, but as we know as of late, attacks on the Amish community have been building up a bit… It shows that even the most simplest of peoples, their lives are not immuned to the sins of what others choose to commit.
My heart is just grieving and praying for the families of these two girls, I dont care if they are of the Amish community or not, this is just sickening at best. I hope that the girls are returned safely to their families and the perp(s) caught. The sad state of affairs we live in here in this world.
Oh my, so sorry to hear this, sure hope they are found safe and the people caught…..will post this on my facebook too…..
God be with them
I called Mark and mentioned to him about this tragic abduction. I knew that it would strongly resonate with him because, one, he is
Amish. Two, when he was about seven he was almost abducted from off of the street, walking to school. If it were not for God’s protecting hand and the alertness of a neighbor’s wife, Mark would have been abducted by a man who stopped and tried to entice him to come to the car. Then, got out of the car and started to come after my son.
We must pray that God will look after these two little innocents. As for the perpetrator, I don’t know how to pray. Pray that somehow God will reach their hearts and they will repent of this evil that they have done.
When I lived in Florida, a little girl that lived not too far away from me was abducted out of her bed during the night. She, her dad, and her grandparents lived, together. They didn’t lock their doors when the went to bed. Turned out a child molester was living with his sister and her husband and wasn’t registered with the police. The police finally found him and he led them to the place where he had buried the little girl. He had molested her and buried her alive in a garbage bag.
Mark and the Amish believe you must forgive and go on. That is really hard for me. Personally, I want to see whoever did this strung up. But, then again, I’m not Amish, my son is.
My hope is that there is a weird twist to this story and this ends up being, for instance, an estranged relative, and not someone with darker intentions–even though the sheriff says in the second video above that there isn’t anything suggesting that.
A couple of months ago I was on my way to a Tuesday market. I always stop at a couple of Amish (or Old order mennonite) farm stands to check out what they have for sale and then go to the market. At the market I will not buy what I can get a better deal at the farm stands. This day there were about 30 Amish people visiting the stand. I did greet them as I examined the produce being offered. Three hours later I came back to the stand and while taking a pic of a sign about a property for sale close to the stand, three small boys were walking on the road. Probably a five year old and a set of three year old twin boys were walking on the road going to a neighbors house I think. I waved to the boys as I took the photo on my cell. My mind was racing…….What do I do… Do I watch the boys until they get to their desination or do I just drive off. I chose to move on 500 yards to the farm stand. Did I feel good about this? No. I could have been considered a stalker and might abduct the boys. This still bothers me. What would yo do?
The Amish are living in the past. This “past” is how I grew up.. My parnets allowed me to walk a mile down the hill to the main highway to sell berries and chickapens on the main highway when I was 8 to 15 years old at the roadside alone. We were trusting back then and abductions were never on anyone’s mind. It just wasn’t a part of how we thought. That’s how the Amish (old order mennonite) think today.
I feel so bad for these girls and yes, we don’t know the whole story but there are tons of sick people who take advantage of our old school way of living.
I pray that these girls are OK but I fear for the worse. Please, Dear GOD, provide a good outcome. I’m very concerned what our society has become. THe Amish are facing some extremely confusing situations today and I hope they are prepared and willing to change to adapt to modern society’s extreme situations.
It’s not their fault that they expect the best of society.
They are living in the past —
One no more dangerous than it has been for the last 80+ years since paved roads and automobiles became common.
One unlike the world the rest of live in, however, that isn’t full of stories on “Instant Media” too scare the bejesus out of folks.
“Stranger danger” might have been less back when roads were dirt and travel was by horse — it simply limited how far someone could get.
It isn’t any worse today than in the 1950s, or 1980. For those of us in the modern world, it’s probably a lot less dangerous — heck, cellphones and the ability to locate where your kid is instantly pretty much offsets any infantismal danger from van-driving kidnappers.
What would have this story been in 1960?
A broadcast on the local AM radio station that afternoon, and then the New York Times the next day maybe publishing three or four paragraphs about two girls who were kidnapped and returned safely home that evening? Beyond the local community few would have heard of it.
Just how unusual this crime is, it’s rarity, is what drives the media coverage that spectacularizes it. It’s a modern day campfire story that scares humans, and makes us believe the world is far scarier than it is. That isolates folks as they turn inwards in fear instead of going about the world in confidence.
SO SAD INDEED! Keep us updated.
The news in Albany is reporting that the girls have been found alive!! Praise God! I don’t know anything other than what’s in this linked article; wanted to share ASAP with all.
Emily and Dave thanks for the heads-up. I have updated the post with some details and links.
It looks like the news just broke, though confusingly the ABC report I linked has a time stamp that is 4 hours before they were allegedly dropped off by their captors (around 8:30 PM, according to WWNY TV). I think that’s just the time of their original story, not the updated version.
Great news, I just hope they are physically unharmed…according to the report, the girls “seem to be healthy”.
Thank you Lord that these children have been recovered. Thanks also to Emily and dave for posting this great news so quickly.
Praise God! Syracuse.com reports that the two girls are home!
I was so happy I didn’t read the comment right before mine! Sorry!! But praise God again!!!
I just heard on my news, that the girls were with their parents. I thank God that they are safe and sound.
Thank God that the Miller girls are back home. Many prayers went heavenward for their safe return.
Thank you all for praying, the girls are now back with their parents.
Prayer is powerful especially when so many prayed for them!
May God bless you all!
Glory to God
Such a relief and answer to prayers and glory to God! Most of the time these stories have such a terrible ending. Many will be rejoicing ans many were praying-a few things that really stood out to me- the father’s statement when interviewed while they were missing “It’s in God’s hands”. That is the Amish way. Also- that they didn’t need photographs of the girls in this case! And also, that for children that are taught obedience over and above most these days, they chose the right time to ‘disobey’ and fled when their abductors told them to stay put.
Praise the Lord! Rejoicing at the joy their parents and them must be experiencing, it’s too bad they had to get a taste of the evil around them.
Thank God! It was such a relief to hear on he radio that they were found safe
What a relief! Now, sadly, will charges be pressed. Is that something the family wants to do, knowing a bit about the Amish, not likely.
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord they got back unharmed! Our prayers were answered! I also prayed for them!
Update: Photos of the stand
Have added a few photos of the farm and stand where the girls were taken to the post.
The girls have spoken to police. No new information on the abductors, who are still at large at this point.
Two young Amish girls found safe a day after they were apparently abducted from a northern New York farm gave investigators information a prosecutor said Friday she hopes will soon lead to an arrest.
(Note: comment edited since the girls have been found)
Thank God the kids were found safe……hope they were not mistreated…..prayers do work…..a lot of people were praying for their safe return….
When I first heard this story yesterday morning, I started to pray, and am so glad to hear they’ve been found & are OK (I hope).
I read a fiction book with a similar scenario, with a little Amish boy being abducted when someone stopped by to purchase root beer and an older sister had to go in the house to make change.
I am actually surprised that more abductions don’t occur—or wouldn’t the Amish report that to the “authorities”?
Just happy they’re home, safe!
Praise God for this good outcome! Erik, please keep us posted as to further news, and thank you so much for getting this story to us.
Sure thing Anne, I’ll be sharing any other news of note as it comes in with updates/comments to this post.
Thank you God
Thank you God for answering our prayers. Thank you for caring. Thank you for bringing those two little girls home. Work on the hearts of the perpetrators and bring them to repentance.
So glad to learn that they have been found apparently unharmed.
It does sound like there is quite a bit more to this story. Were the kidnappers known to the victims somehow?
I’ll let that be the extent of my curiousity. Mostly, I’m just glad they are back safe.
So happy they are found alive
When the police announced that the two Amish girls had been abducted, my heart went into my throat. Who would abduct two little girls ages 6 and 12 and for what reasons. The who and for what reason, kept shuffling around in my brain. When the police said this was probably going to be a recovery rather than a rescue, I prayed that wouldn’t be the case. Now to figure out who would do this and why? The Amish don’t like a alot of attention and don’t like to involve the police in their problems. We may never know who or why. I’m just happy they were returned alive.
Amish Girls Abducted
After a scare, good news to begin the weekend. Thank God!
The St. Lawrence County Sheriff/NY State Police can continue to investigate and can pursue criminal charges in the matter without a formal complaint by the victims or their family; “The People of the State of New York” would be the complainants.
The problem for prosecuters would be in obtaining pertinent information (from the direct victims) to support a criminal complaint, should the parents choose not to provide (I hesitate to say “not cooperate”) the girls for interview, or their testimonies. Unfortunately, anyone to whom the girls made statements probably wouldn’t be able to offer those, as they would be deemed hearsay unless the girls somehow supported the information.
Now if the perpetrators were to confess, that would simplify things.
Upstate NY couple arrested
Arrests have been made. Earlier this evening a couple living within 20 miles of the stand were charged with first-degree kidnapping, which could mean 25 years to life in prison. Post updated above with links.
The two people arrested for kidnapping the girls have been denied any type of bail. 🙂
Almost the worst news possible
It’s being reported now that the couple sexually abused the sisters.
“The two young Amish sisters who were kidnapped from their farm in upstate New York last week were sexually assaulted, the authorities said on Saturday.
The couple who kidnapped them, Nicole F. Vaisey, 25, and Stephen M. Howells II, 39, were arrested on Friday and charged with two counts each of first-degree kidnapping. According to a criminal complaint, the couple planned “to inflict physical injury” and sexually abuse the girls when they took them from their family farm in Oswegatchie, N.Y., near the Canadian border. The suspects each pleaded not guilty.”
Worst news? -- I would be slow to draw conclusions...
Deplorable… Despicable… And a whole lot more words come to mind. But in the midst of my gut reaction to want to see something more along the old eye-for-an-eye level of retribution…, well, I have a moment of realism when I recall that legal terms do not always convey what regular folks like us use take them to mean. Specifics aren’t important here, but there have been times when I knew both the legal charges against someone and the specific acts that had been committed — and legalese often uses terms in ways that seem to mean something far more terrible than the actual ‘crime’ (and some maybe not even worthy of being called a crime). Don’t get me wrong — I’m not taking up for the likes of someone that will snatch kids. But the I’ve-heard-the-term-but-don’t-*really*-know-what-happened side of me forces me to rein in the conclusion-jumping ’til I know for sure the specifics. But that’s just me.
And thanks for keeping us caught up on the news, Erik.
This is so horrible……well now the police have them in custody and they will pay for what they did ,now in more ways than one…..God has the final say……so so sorry to hear this…..
Thank God they were brave enough to run. So sorry for their pain and what the parents and community will have to go through because of this as well. Really glad that the law seems to be able to prosecute simply because these are minors who have been harmed. I hope the eventual legal punishment for BOTH (I don’t believe that “submissive” defense is grounds to lighten the woman’s charges)is substantial enough to deter any other Amish abductions.
The couple accused of kdnapping the two girls have been indicted in Federal Court on charges of sexual exploitation of children and possession of child pornography.
Nicole Vaisey, 25, and Stephone Howells Jr., 39, had previously been charged by authorities in St. Lawrence County, NY State with kidnapping and were being held without bail. They are now in Federal custody.
The Federal indictment reveals the pair had sexually abused another girl, now about 8 years old, over the past two years.
State and Federal investigations are continuing.
Thank you for the update.
Yes, thanks for letting us know. We had been wondering but had not heard any more. Was the 8 year old girl also held captive?
The Associated Press report didn’t indicate if the third girl been held captive; it just said she’d been abused “during the past two years”.
From AP accounts: The [Syracuse] US Attorney, Richard Hartunian: “…This indictment charges Howells and Vaisey with enticing and coercing children to engage in sexual conduct and making a video recording of it…”.
Both [Howells and Vaisey] are now in Federal custody with a detention hearing scheduled next week. AUS [Asst. US Atty] John Duncan declined to say whether there may be further evidence from the couple’s computer that other children were sexually abused. He said the investigation is continuing.
Chances are that there won’t be much else forthcoming until the hearing and that unless one or both of the accused plead out, criminal proceedings — both/either State or Federal — would be at least a year down the road while legal maneuvering by both sides takes place.
Thanks for the explanation. It’s just so tragic to hear of any children caught up in something like this.