A couple from Saint Lawrence County was sentenced Thursday to hundreds of years in prison for the exploitation of six children, including two girls abducted from their family’s roadside vegetable stand in August 2014.
U.S. Attorney Richard Hartunian sentenced 39-year-old Steven Howells II to 580 years in prison. He pleaded guilty to all 21 federal charges, which consisted of conspiracy to sexually exploit minors, 15 counts of sexual exploitation of children, involving six victims, and five counts of possession of child pornography.
Howells 26-year-old girlfriend Nicole Vaisey was sentenced to 300 years in prison. She pleaded guilty to conspiracy to sexually exploit minors and nine counts of sexual exploitation of children, involving four victims.
Prosecutor Tom Bertooni said the abduction of these two Amish girls was one of the worst cases he’s seen.
“I’ll tell you, I’ve been a prosecutor for 25 years, and I was telling some of my colleagues this – I’ve seen a lot of nasty stuff,” Bertooni said. “This was one of the nastiest cases I’ve ever seen, one of the most horrific examples of human conduct that I can recall. It’s a good thing that we concluded it the way we did.”
In the kidnapping of the girls at the vegetable stand, Bertooni said Howells and Vaisey pretended to be customers and then lured the girls away. Howells forced the children into the car, and Vaisey drove off. After being restrained and held captive for 24 hours in Howells’ and Vaisey’s home, Howells and Vaisey dropped the two girls off in a remote location. However, they were seen by someone who was able to identify the car. Howells and Vaisey were arrested the following day.
These arrests helped uncover Howells’ and Vaisey’s other child sexual abuses that were conspired from September 2013 to August 2014. The other four victims were the children of Howells’ family friends. After making arrangements to spend time with the children, Howells would administer drugs he obtained as a registered nurse to sedate the girls. Howells would then sexually abuse the children, sometimes with Vaisey also doing so, while Howells or Vaisey filmed the abuse.
Prosecutors say the main purpose of exploiting these children was to produce videos and pictures of such conduct.
Investigators were able to break an encryption on Howell’s memory card, which showed thousands of explicit pictures and videos.
The case was investigated by FBI, the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office and the New York State Police, and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lisa M. Fletcher, Tamara Thomson, and Steven D. Clymer, according to a press release on the sentencing released Thursday.