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Man charged with kidnapping Amish children suspended with pay; girlfriend not welcome back at her workplace

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HERMON — The registered nurse charged with kidnapping two Amish children has been suspended without pay from his position as a registered nurse at the wound center at Claxton-Hepburn Hospital, Ogdensburg, and his girlffriend is no longer welcome to return to the pet grooming business she has worked for on a part-time basis for the last several months, according to her employer.

The alleged abductors, Stephen M. Howells II, 39, and Nicole F. Vaisey, 25, both of 1380 County Route 21, were both sent to St. Lawrence County jail, Canton, on Friday without bail after being arraigned in Fowler Town Court on charges of first-degree kidnapping.

Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center spokeswoman Laura C. Shea said hospital officials are cooperating with the ongoing investigation and will conduc their own internal investigation.

“We are saddened by these events. We plan to do all we can to help with the investigation. This is certainly no reflection on our commitment to protect our patients and staff,” she said.

Mrs. Shea said Mr. Howells has been employed at Claxton-Hepburn since 2006, working in the emergency department. He joined the Thomas T. Patterson Wound Healing Center staff in May.

Mr. Howells has been suspended without pay pending the investigation, she said.

Ms. Vaisey is longer welcome at Bows & Bandanas Pet Salon and Resort, Potsdam, where she had worked on a part-time basis for over a year. Her job was to bathe pets for the groomers, owner Chris Taylor said. She worked two days a week at the business.

Mr. Taylor said Ms. Vaisey’s resume indicated she had worked for LEAP (Living Exploring All Possibilities of St. Lawrence County, Inc.), a program that offers services to the developmentally disabled; and as a substitute teacher. Efforts to reach LEAP Executive Director Ellen Reynolds on Saturday were unsuccessful.

He said he could not remember the last time Ms. Vaisey reported to work at the pet salon, but he said it was some time last week.

“We’re in shock,” Mr. Taylor said. “Everyone is quiet and can’t wrap your head around it. We, as a staff, are beside ourselves. We are surprised and disgusted. It feels like a dream, and you can’t wake up. You would never know. She is quiet. She always seemed to be a nice person. She was good with the animals. There were no signs to make you think that this was going on.”

Hermon Mayor Cathy L. Race said she met Mr. Howells briefly while taking her mother to an appointment at Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center, Ogdensburg. “He noticed we were from Hermon, and he said he was also. We live in such a small town here. I found it unusual that we never met before.”

Neighbors have said that Mr. Howells was friendly but mostly kept to himself.

“I guess I was shocked when I heard the news,” Ms. Race said. “It took me a little while to figure out who he was and I thought about it. I was thinking an RN whose job it is to help people would not do something like this regardless of where they are from. And then when you find out they are from Hermon. It is very sad.”

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