DA: Arrest may be coming in case of abducted Amish girls

Police sketch of Fannie Miller, 12, one of two Amish girls believed abducted in northern New York, but who returned home safely

St. Lawrence County Sheriff's Office

OSWEGATCHIE, N.Y. - Two young Amish girls found safe a day after they were apparently abducted from a northern New York farm stand gave investigators information a prosecutor said Friday she hopes will soon lead to an arrest.

St. Lawrence County District Attorney Mary Rain said she can't comment on what happened to 6-year-old Delila Miller and 12-year-old Fannie Miller, who vanished Wednesday evening after a car pulled up to their family's farm stand in Oswegatchie, a rural town on the Canadian border, about 130 miles north of Syracuse.

"They have provided us with information we're now acting on," Rain said, while declining to release details she said might compromise any future prosecution.

"I really can't discuss what happened when they were in captivity," she said, while confirming the girls are healthy, though "a little wet and cold."

Authorities met Friday morning to go over the leads and set the course of the investigation.

"We're hopeful there will be an arrest sooner rather than later," Rain said.

The episode has left a sense of vulnerability in the peaceful rural community, where residents said even small children would walk unaccompanied to school, Rain said.

"One thing that comes from this is that people learn this can happen in a small town," she said. "I think the public will take precautions, and that's the sad thing."

The girls turned up Thursday evening at a house in Richville, about 15 miles from where they disappeared, and asked for help getting home.

CBS Watertown, N.Y. affiliate WWNY-TV reports that the two girls were abducted by two men, who took them to a home in Bigelow, near Richville, around 8:30 p.m. and left them there, telling them not to leave. Instead, the girls fled in search of help, reports the station.

They were found by a man who returned them to their home, reports the station.

At a press conference Friday, St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells wouldn't comment on any details of the girls' abduction, citing the ongoing investigation.

"We're looking for the perpetrators of the crime," Wells said.

Word of the girls' return came shortly after about 200 people attended a candlelight prayer vigil at Cornerstone Wesleyan Church in nearby Heuvelton. They sang "Amazing Grace" and "This Little Light of Mine," read psalms and called children to the altar for a round of prayers.

Dot Simmons, a member of the congregation and neighbor of the Miller family, said despair turned to joy when she returned home from the vigil to word that the girls were safe.

She and her husband got a call saying that police scanner traffic was reporting the unexpected outcome and they drove next door to find an ambulance and one of the Millers' older sons sharing the good news.

Authorities initially said the sisters vanished at about 7:30 p.m. Wednesday after a light-colored car pulled up to the farm stand and they went down to tend to the customers while the rest of their family stayed at a barn for the evening milking. By Thursday night, however, they were looking for a red car.

Searchers had scoured Oswegatchie, a farming community of about 4,000 people about 130 miles north of Syracuse, in a hunt hampered by a lack of photos of the girls for authorities to circulate. The Amish typically avoid modern technology, and 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 girls are among the youngest of Mose and Barb Miller's 13 children, who range in age from 1 to 21 years, said Simmons, the neighbor. The girls routinely took on the chore of selling the fruits, vegetables, jams and other products of the farm, Simmons said.

"It's absolutely amazing," she said of their return.

St. Lawrence County is home to New York's second-largest Amish population, which has grown in the past decade because of productive land and property prices lower than in Pennsylvania.