Share story

SYRACUSE, New York (AP) — A man and a woman who kidnapped and sexually abused two Amish girls in northern New York last year were sentenced Thursday to lifetime federal prison terms.

Nicole Vaisey, 26, and her boyfriend, 40-year-old Stephen Howells, admitted in state and federal courts that they kidnapped the two girls and sexually exploited six children altogether. Victims were drugged and recorded during sex acts, authorities said.

Judge Glenn Suddaby sentenced both to the maximum possible terms, which prosecutors recommended — 580 years for Howells on 21 charges and 300 years for Vaisey on 10 counts.

Howells told the judge that he took advantage of the inexperienced Vaisey and “twisted her around” for his own sexual gratification, the Syracuse Post-Standard reported. “The evil that I’ve done is my own,” he said.

Prosecutors say the abuse ended after the couple were arrested in the kidnapping of the two young Amish girls from a farm stand in August 2014. The girls were released a day later.

Suddaby gave the couple no credit for the release, accepting prosecutors’ theory they would have kept the girls as sex slaves if a soundproof cell in their home had been completed. He rejected Vaisey’s claim that she was under Howells’ control as a sex slave.

“You are the threat that parents worry about every day,” Suddaby told Howells, who used his job as a registered nurse to get the drugs used to subdue the victims. “You are the nightmare that never goes away for children.”

Suddaby recommended sex offender treatment in prison for both.

Defense attorneys asked for shorter sentences that would have resulted in their clients’ eventual release and noted both had been sexually abused in their pasts.

Public defender Randi Bianco said Howells’ federal sentence should be reduced to 30 years.

In a sentencing memo, attorney Bradford Riendeau asked, “At age 65 after years of imprisonment, will Nicole Vaisey still be a risk to the community?”

They still face sentencing on state kidnapping charges.