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Hearing set in Amish girls’ kidnapping in NY

– A woman accused along with her boyfriend of abducting and sexually abusing two young Amish sisters is due in court for a preliminary hearing.

The lawyer for 25-year-old Nicole Vaisey said she was the victim of an abusive relationship with 39-year-old Stephen Howells Jr.

“She was in a master-slave relationship with Howells,” attorney Bradford Riendeau said. “I believe she’s not as culpable as he is.”

Vaisey will be in court on Thursday.

Authorities said Howells waived his right to a similar hearing and his case will go straight to a grand jury in St. Lawrence County near the Canadian border.

The couple from Hermon is in jail without bail. They were arrested and arraigned Friday, accused of abducting the 7-year-old and 12-year-old sisters from the family’s rural farm stand.

The sisters turned up the next night at the door of a house 15 miles from their home. The couple at that house brought them home.

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

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.

There was no answer late Tuesday at the St. Lawrence County Conflict Defender’s Office, which is representing Howells.

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

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