Friday, August 15
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Two missing Amish sisters turned up safe Thursday evening, about 24 hours after they were apparently abducted from their family's roadside farm stand in northern New York, authorities said.
St. Lawrence County District Attorney Mary Rain said the girls were cold and wet but unharmed when they sought help at a home in Richville, about 13 miles from where they disappeared in the rural town of Oswegatchie.
She said 12-year-old Fannie Miller and 7-year-old Delila Miller were dropped off and knocked on the door, asking for help getting home. A neighbor who visited the Miller family after hearing word of the girls' return said she spoke with one of their brothers, who said they were well and being checked out.
There were no other details immediately available about what happened to the girls.
"We have the sheriff's department and the FBI speaking with the young ladies," Rain said, while noting that the Amish are a "very private people."
She said investigators believe more than one person was responsible for the girls' disappearance and she was confident they would be identified.
Oswegatchie is a farming community of about 4,000 people on the Canadian border about 150 miles north of Albany.
Word of the girls' return came shortly after about 200 people attended a candlelight prayer vigil at Cornerstone Wesleyan Church in nearby Heuvelton.
They sang "Amazing Grace" and "This Little Light of Mine," read psalms and called children to the altar for a round of prayers.
Dot Simmons, a member of the congregation and neighbor of the Miller family, said despair turned to joy when she returned home from the vigil to word that the girls were safe.
She and her husband got a call saying that police scanner calls were reporting the unexpected outcome and they drove next door to find an ambulance and one of the Millers' older sons sharing the good news.
At the nearby police command post, authorities weren't releasing any information, but the subdued atmosphere had given way to law enforcement officers exchanging smiles and high-fives.
The sisters vanished at about 7:30 p.m. Wednesday after a white or light-colored car pulled up to the farm stand and they went down to tend to the customers while the rest of their family stayed at a barn for the evening milking.
Searchers had scoured far northern New York in a hunt hampered by the lack of photos of the girls for authorities to circulate among a frightened community. There were no photos because the Amish tend to shun modern technology, but the family agreed to the release of a sketch of the older child, St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells said.
The girls are among the youngest of Mose and Barb Miller's 13 children, who range in age from 1 to 21 years, Simmons said.
The girls routinely took on the chore of selling the fruits, vegetables, jams and other products of the farm, Simmons said.
"It's absolutely amazing," she said of their return.
St. Lawrence County is home to New York's second-largest Amish population, which has grown in the past decade because of productive land and property prices lower than in Pennsylvania
Associated Press writer Chris Carola contributed to this report.