Residents of a peaceful rural community are reluctant to let their children play outdoors unattended and some took down their farm stands after two young Amish sisters were kidnapped from their family's roadside stand, officials said Friday.
The sisters were kidnapped from their family farm stand and police are seeking more than one person responsible, St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells said Friday. The two are now safe at home, and Wells said they provided information that is helping investigators.
Authorities weren't releasing any details about what happened to the girls during their daylong disappearance. They said they don't want to compromise a potential prosecution. Descriptions of the suspects and their vehicle are also being withheld.
Seven-year-old Delila Miller and 12-year-old Fannie Miller vanished Wednesday evening after a car pulled up to the roadside stand in Oswegatchie, a farming community near the Canadian border. They turned up unharmed Thursday evening at a house in Richville, about 15 miles away.
St. Lawrence County District Attorney Mary Rain also declined to discuss details Friday, but said, "We're hopeful there will be an arrest sooner rather than later."
The episode has left a sense of vulnerability in a community where residents said even small children often walk unaccompanied to school.
"One thing that comes from this is that people learn this can happen in a small town," Rain said. "I think the public will take precautions, and that's the sad thing."
Patricia Ritchie, the state senator representing the region, said people are "unnerved those responsible are still at large."
And many are now reluctant to let their children play outdoors unattended, she said.
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.
Word of the girls' return came shortly after about 200 people attended a candlelight prayer vigil at Cornerstone Wesleyan Church in nearby Heuvelton. 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.
Authorities initially said the sisters vanished at about 7:30 p.m. Wednesday after a 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. By Thursday night, however, they were looking for a red car.
Searchers had scoured Oswegatchie, a farming community of about 4,000 people about 150 miles north of Albany, in a hunt hampered by a lack of photos of the girls for authorities to circulate. 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 are among the youngest of Mose and Barb Miller's 13 children, who range in age from 1 to 21 years, said Simmons. The girls routinely took on the chore of selling the fruits, vegetables, jams and other products of the farm, Simmons said.