- Stephen Howells, 39, and Nicole Vaisey, 25, were arrested for 'snatching the sisters, aged seven and 12, on Wednesday'
- While a senior at Mercyhurst College, Vaisey wrote her honors psychology thesis on how watching pornography changed perceptions about rape
- The girls were dropped off at a stranger's home 24 hours later 'after the couple sexually abused them'
- Their father said it's 'sad' how the suspects have ruined their whole lives
- Vaisey said she was in a submissive relationship with Howells, who was her 'master' - but the DA says she is just as culpable
The upstate New York woman accused of kidnapping and sexually abusing two Amish girls with her boyfriend studied the psychology of rape in college — and even wrote a senior thesis on the subject.
In her final year at Mercyhurst College, Nicole Vaisey researched whether watching pornography changed perceptions about rape, Syracuse.com reported.
Vaisey, who majored in psychology, hypothesized in 2011 that the research participants with more exposure to the images were more likely to blame the victim.
She received a $1,500 Psi Chi research grant to help her with the research and eventually graduated with honors, according to Syracuse.com.
Vaisey, 25, and boyfriend Stephen Howells Jr., 39, are being held without bail and have a preliminary court appearance scheduled for Thursday.
Howells, a registered nurse at
Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center, and Vaisey, a former dog groomer, were
arrested on Friday after voluntarily going to the sheriff's office for
Arrests: Stephen Howells and Nicole Vaisey, both pictured, can expect more charges to be filed against them, the district attorney said. The couple allegedly snatched two Amish girls and sexually abused them
were charged with kidnapping with the intent to physically or sexually
abuse the seven-year-old and 12-year-old sisters, who were snatched from
their family's roadside vegetable stand in Oswegatchie on Wednesday
father of the girls has said he feels sorry for the couple.
parents of the girls, aged seven and 12, spoke to the Johnson
Newspapers at their home in Oswegathcie on Sunday, two days after Howells and Vaisey were charged with kidnapping with
the intent to physically or sexually abuse the girls.
sad,' said the 44-year-old father, who is not being identified to
protect his daughters. 'They must have ruined their whole life.'
Amish couple, who have 14 children, did not express any anger toward
the suspects, while the girls' 19-year-old sister said her siblings were
not speaking much about their ordeal.
Their mother said she is grateful to have her girls back home, but daily life has not yet returned to normal.
'We feel relieved we have them,' the mother said. 'It's still not like it was.'
spoke out as St Lawyrence County District Attorney Mary Rain revealed
that more charges are expected to be brought against Howells and Vaisey.
Authorities collected computer hard drives and other potential evidence from their home on Sunday.
Search: On Sunday, investigators continued to collect evidence from their home in Hermon, New York
Home: Three children lived at the upstate New York home with the couple, according to neighbors
Authorities say the couple had prowled
for easy targets and sexually abused the girls before letting them go
after about 24 hours.
'I 100 per cent expect more charges,' Rain told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Sunday.
said the new charges, which she would not detail, could come after she
meets with police investigators Monday or at the hearing Thursday.
It's also possible prosecutors would have to wait for results from forensic tests.
sisters were abducted on Wednesday from a farm stand in front of the
family's home in Oswegatchie, near the Canadian border. They were set
free by their captors about 24 hours later and turned up safe at the
door of a house 15 miles from where they were taken.
'Kidnappers': Vaisey, 25 (left), and 39-year-old Howells were arrested on Friday and remain in jail
There was no answer on Sunday at the St. Lawrence County Conflict Defender's Office, which is representing Howells.
couple were busted after voluntarily coming in for an interview the St.
Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office. Rain would not say if the couple
admitted to the crime, but they were arrested around 8:30 p.m. at the
end of questioning.
lawyer, Bradford Riendeau told The New York Times that she was in an
abusive and submissive relationship with Howells. He said she made a
'voluntary statement' to investigators after her arrest and was
obtaining an order of protection against him.
'She appears to have been the slave and he was the master,' Riendeau told the newspaper.
Rain said Vaisey is just as culpable as Howells.
Denials: Vaisey, pictured on Friday as she is escorted by a deputy from the St. Lawrence County Sheriff's Department, claimed that she was in an abusive and submissive relationship with Howells
A neighbor said they were boyfriend and girlfriend and that three other children lived in the house.
On his Facebook page, Howells appears to be a father to three children. It's uncertain whether his girlfriend, Vaisey, is the mother.
St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells said the girls were able to provide details to investigators about their time in captivity.
The girls are not being identified as they are victims of sexual abuse.
The kidnappings touched off a massive search in the 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.
Somber: DA Mary Rain, left, said she expected more charges to be filed against the couple. She is pictured with county Sheriff Kevin M. Wells, who has noted just how much the incident has shaken the community
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 'seem to be healthy' after being reunited with family, officials said.
Patricia Ritchie, the state senator representing the region, said many families in the area are now reluctant to let their children play outdoors unattended.
Ritchie said the Amish are responding in a way that may forever change a familiar feature of the local landscape: Some are taking down their roadside stands.
'This has sent a shockwave through their community,' she said.
The couple could face 25 years to life in prison if convicted.
Share or comment on this article
Share what you think
No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts,
or debate this issue live on our message boards.
Who is this week's top commenter?
Find out now