Saturday: Sheriff Says Couple 'Looking To Victimize'
The two people charged Friday night with kidnapping two Amish girls "were looking for opportunities to victimize," St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells said Saturday.
Stephen Howells II, 39, and his girlfriend, Nicole Vaisey, 25, of 1380 County Route 21, were charged with first degree kidnapping late Friday. (Details here.)
Fannie Miller, 12, and Delila Miller, 7, were abducted from in front of the family home near Heuvelton Wednsday night, touching off a massive investigation and search. The two girls were released just outside Richville, Thursday night.
Wells said Howells and Vaisey did not seek the two girls, specifically, but were "targeting opportunity."
He declined to be more specific about the couple's intent, or whether the girls were injured.
Court documents filed Friday night accused the couple of intending to physically injure or "violate" the girls
"We've arrested the right two people here; they were both highly involved," he said. "A lot of planning went into this."
And Wells said investigators are looking for whether there are any other victims.
"We're looking for anything and everything that can tell us about the backgrounds" of Howells and Vaisey, he said.
St. Lawrence County District Attorney Mary Rain said, early on, she expects the two will be tried together, though they have separate lawyers.
Andrew Vale, the top FBI agent for the area, said the U.S. Attorney's office is working with investigators and the district attorney.
Wells said that federal charges may be placed against the two.
They're being held after being araigned Friday night in Town of Fowler court.
Their home on county route 21 was blocked off with police tape Friday afternoon. The couple owns a white car and a red car - and white and red cars were both implicated earlier in the week in the kidnappings.
Wells said the three children of one of the pair - he didn't specify whether it's Howells or Vaisey - did not live at the home the two had on county route 21, Town of Hermon. He said those children lived with "another parent."
Saturday's press conference followed a written statement Friday night, the St. Lawrence County Sheriff's Department.
In its statement, the sheriff's department notes: "The arrest of the two persons have with no doubt saved young children from future abuse at the hands of these two."
Wells praised the two kidnapped girls Friday night. "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."
Saturday, Wells said the girls were able to provide some details from their captivity that helped locate the pair.
Saturday, Wells said the girls were kept at the couple's county route 21 home. He declined to answer a reporter's question about whether dogs were used to lure the girls into a car, but said there were multiple "methods of coercion."
Court documents filed Friday night accused the couple of intending to physically injure and "violate" the girls.
Howells is a nurse who works at Claxton-Hepburn Hospital in Ogdensburg and it's likely he travelled Route 812, where the kidnapping took place, frequently - it's the most direct route from Hermon to Ogdensburg. Vaisey is employed as a pet groomer.
A spokeswoman for Claxton-Hepburn Hospital said Saturday that Howells is suspended without pay while the investigation goes on. Laura Shea said the hospital will conduct it's own internal investigation, and that hospital officials were "stunned" by the news, because Claxton-Hepburn has "rigorous hiring process."
She said Howells has been employed at Claxton-Hepburn since 2006.
Wells said the couple had no prior record that authorities are aware of, and that they had local ties, including family.
Click on the picture above to see Chris Horvatit's report from 7News at 6.
Saturday, July 23, 2016, Watertown, NY
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