New York couple planned to keep Amish children as slaves

Couple lured the two sisters into their car by saying they could pet their dog

A couple who admitted to kidnapping and sexually abusing two Amish children in the US said they intended to keep young sisters as slaves.

The couple from the US state of New York lured the two sisters from their family's market farm stand in the town of Fowler, with the intention of turning them into slaves, an investigator said on Thursday.

Nicola Vaisey, 25, admitted that she and her boyfriend Stephen Howells Jr., 39, lured the girls, aged 7 and 12-years-old, into their car by saying they could pet their dog.

Howells then pushed the sisters into the vehicle, St Lawrence County Sherriff's Sergeant Brooks Bigwarfe said.

Vaisey told Bigwarfe that she and Howells shackled the girls, but released the sisters 24 hours later after they became frightened by news reports.

The kidnapping sparked a massive search in the Amish family's remote farming community. Searchers scoured the community of about 4,000 people but were hampered by a lack of photos of the girls the Amish typically avoid modern technology.

Instead, the family had to work with an artist who spoke their language, a German dialect known as Pennsylvania Dutch, to produce a sketch of the older girl.

The parents, who have 14 children, did not express anger toward the suspects. The father said he feels sorry for the man and the woman. "It's sad," the 44-year-old said, "they must have ruined their whole life."

The girls' father said Thursday at his farm that they seemed to be doing well, and the family's farm stand was open again.

Fowler Justice Paul Lamson ruled on Thursday that there is reasonable cause to believe Vaisey committed felony kidnapping, and ordered she be held without bail.

District Attorney Mary Rain said the children were sexually abused by the “sexual predators.”

But Defense attorney Bradford Riendeau said Vaisey was Howells' slave.

“She was in a master-slave relationship,” Riendeau said. “I believe she's not as culpable as he is.”

Howells, who is also jailed, waived his right to a hearing.

Additional reporting by AP

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