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A man and his girlfriend who were accused of kidnapping and sexually abusing two Amish sisters in northern New York in 2014. Stephen Howells, 40 years old and Nicole Vaisey, 26 years old admitted to the crime and to four other cases of sexual abuse. The sentences were imposed in December of 2015, and they were as high as possible: 300 years for Vaisey and 580 years for Howells, and both sentences are to be served in a federal prison.

Amish Country By Vedanta Barooah from Flickr.

Amish Country by Vedanta Barooah from Flickr.

The case

At 7:30 p.m., the two Amish girls, aged 7 and 12 years old, were waiting on customers on the family’s roadside stand. The family farm was situated near Albany, NY. There is still not known exactly how the two girls were taken but a witness saw the passenger place something in the back seat of the car before it drove away and the girls were gone.

Although an amber alert was issued immediately, the lack of photographs hindered the search for the girls. Police were able to release a sketch of the older girls instead. The sketch was accompanied by a vague description of the two girls: they were wearing dark blue dresses, blue aprons, and black bonnets, the older girl was cross-eyed and the younger one was missing front teeth.

The girls were found a day later, after they knocked on the door of Jeff and Pam Stinson. They were barefoot, cold, and very hungry. The couple immediately knew who the girls were, but instead of calling the police, they chose to drive the girls home but not before feeding them.

The Arrest

It took the police less than 24 hours after the girls were found to arrest Howells and Vaisey. The girls were able to provide many details that helped the police locate the two felons. Both were held without bond until the court appearance later that week.

The common belief was that the couple was searching for easy targets and were thinking about a new abduction when they ran into the girls that waited alone on the roadside stand.

Howells and Vaisey were accused of conspiracy to exploit children sexually, sexual exploitation of children as well as possession of child pornography. Both Howells and Vaisey admitted to these charges in May 2015 and pleaded guilty to videotaping the girls while sexually assaulting them.

The Court Case

After the couple hired their attorneys, Vaisey began distancing herself from her boyfriend. Her attorney said that she was also abused by her boyfriend and was forced to behave submissively. She made a confession to the police and was intending to obtain a restraining order against him. Nonetheless, this was unnecessary, as they both were going to spend their whole lives in prison.

Howells himself declared that he took advantage of the younger and naive Vaisey and used her for his own sexual purposes. His claims that he was the only one responsible didn’t fool anyone as Vaisey was also sentenced to 300 years in federal prison, after being found guilty on 10 counts.

Judge Suddaby didn’t give the couple any credit for the release of the two Amish girls. The prosecutors had a theory that the couple wouldn’t have released them if they had finished building the soundproof cell in their house. Instead, they would have probably kept them indefinitely as sex slaves.

The Court also dismissed Vaisey’s claims that she was under Howells’ control. Although the defense attorneys requested reduced sentences based on the fact that both Howells and Vaisey were sexually abused in their past, this request was denied.

In addition to the two Amish girls, the couple admitted to the sexual exploitation of four other girls in the area. The prosecutors sought maximum sentence and received it. Neither Howells nor Vaisey will ever be released from prison.

The Conclusion

The fact that the couple will spend their entire lives in prison surely saved other girls in the area from experiencing similar atrocities, or even worse. But for the two Amish girls, as well as for every other victim of sexual assault, the battle is not over. While recovery is possible for sexual victims, a very difficult journey lies ahead. Statistics show that 15% of the women and 2% of men have survived childhood sexual trauma. These statistics are terrifying and even though not every crime is the same, the abuse is emotionally devastating and the recovery is challenging, to say the least. Thus, sexual related crime shouldn’t be taken lightly.

In a perspective, extreme sentence for this type of crime can be good for both, the victim(s), and society. With offenders being locked away for longer jail terms(in this case, the sentences are life sentences), society can be safer without having to carry the burden of the potential risks that these offenders illicit upon the communities if they were to be freed. While that, longer sentences can sometimes give the victim(s) the sense of justice retribution, of which, in some cases, can aid them(the victim(s)) in recovery of emotional pains that they had suffered. Physical traumas, most often, can heal through time, nevertheless, emotional scars that are caused by sexual related crimes sometimes, never heal. Therefore, justice retribution through hefty punishment is a great tool, of which, can offer some comfort to the victim(s). For the offenders, only one thing can be said, if you don’t want the punishment, don’t commit the crime.

In many court cases, sometimes the punishment for the offender may seem extraordinary unnecessary where the prison sentence imposed surpass 100 years. It is obvious that almost no human can walk away from prison after serving 100 years sentence. Nonetheless, this is necessary to clearly demonstrated denunciation, which clearly shows society that the criminal offend that was committed is wrong in every way. Also, with extraordinary high sentence, it is a hope that deterrence can stop the next would be offender(s) to not commit the crime(s). Besides denunciation and deterrence, prison sentences can also demonstrate to the public how heinous is the crime that was committed by each offender. As you may see in this case, both Stephen Howells and Nicole Vaisey’s sentences can be considered as imprisonment for life sentences, nevertheless, just by having a quick look at the sentences imposed, with Howells’s sentence at 580 years and Vaisey’s at 300 years, we know that Howells had a greater role in the crimes or what he had committed are worse than those of Vaisey.

In the ending conclusion, the result of this case can be considered a victory for both, the victims(Amish sisters and other girls that were sexually exploited by Howells and Vaisey) and the justice system. Will the victims’ emotional scars heal in time or not? We do not know, nevertheless, those that committed the heinous offends toward them(the victims) got the justice retribution that they(the offenders) deserved.

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