Dad of abducted Amish girls says he feels sorry for suspects

The booking photos of Stephen Howells II, left, and Nicole Vaisey, who are charged with kidnapping two Amish sisters in northern New York state.

Lawrence County Sheriff's Office/AP

OSWEGATCHIE, N.Y. - The father of two Amish girls abducted in northern New York last week said he feels sorry for the two people authorities say kidnapped and sexually abused his daughters.

The parents of the 6- and 12-year-old sisters spoke to the Johnson Newspapers at their home in Oswegatchie on Sunday, two days after Stephen Howells Jr. and Nicole Vaisey were charged with kidnapping with the intent to physically or sexually abuse the girls.

"It's sad," the 44-year-old father said. "They must have ruined their whole life."

He also told CBS affiliate WWNY that the accused kidnappers "deserve some punishment."

The Associated Press is not naming the family members because it generally does not identify victims of sexual abuse.

The sisters were abducted Wednesday from a farm stand in front of the family's home near the Canadian border, about 130 miles northeast of Syracuse. They were set free about 24 hours later and turned up safe at the door of a house 15 miles from where they were taken.

Howells and Vaisey were arrested Friday. Authorities say the couple sexually abused the girls before letting them go. St. Lawrence County District Attorney Mary Rain has said additional charges are likely as early as this week.

The girls' father also told WWNY that the family had moved the vegetable stand from the state route where his daughters were taken into the yard of their home.

"We are keeping a closer watch from now on," he told the station.

St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells said Monday that investigators have finished gathering evidence at the home Howells and Vaisey share. He said that it will take time to go through that information and that there has been no decision to file additional charges ahead of a preliminary hearing scheduled for Thursday.

Lawyers for the suspects could not be reached by phone on Monday, but Vaisey's lawyer, Bradford Riendeau, told The New York Times that she was in an abusive and submissive "master and slave" relationship with Howells.

"She was not the lead person or a coequal in this at all," Riendeau told the paper.

The Amish couple, who have 14 children, did not express anger toward the suspects.

A 19-year-old sister told the newspaper group, which includes the Watertown Daily Times, that her younger siblings were not speaking much about their ordeal. The mother said that she is grateful to have her girls back home, but that daily life has not yet returned to normal.

"We feel relieved we have them," the mother said. "It's still not like it was."