A pair of teenage sisters who were reported as runaways last year actually had been abducted by a family acquaintance, and a telephone tip led to their rescue this week, authorities said.
Fifteen-year-old Ky-Lea Fortner and 13-year-old Shaeleen Fitch-Fortner were found Wednesday night in Vestal.
The sisters were living with a foster family less than 10 miles away in Binghamton in April 2015 when they were reported as runaways, state police said.
Authorities say the acquaintance, 29-year-old Amanda Hellman, kidnapped them on their way to school and held them against their will for 11 months. She also "conducted numerous acts to prevent law enforcement from returning the two children to their foster parents," according to a criminal complaint.
Investigators wouldn't say how the girls were treated in captivity or what prevented them from leaving. They also wouldn't comment on Hellman's motives.
"Last April, two teenage girls left for school and did not return home. Tonight everyone should know that the two girls are safe," Broome County District Attorney Steve Cornwell said Thursday.
Hellman is jailed without bail on kidnapping charges. Her lawyer entered a not guilty plea at her arraignment Thursday. Cornwell said no other charges are expected and Hellman is the only suspect.
Cornwell praised the determined work of investigators to find the girls.
"While people went on with their lives last April, the state police continued to search every single day for 11 months," Cornwell said. "The investigation was expansive and they never stopped looking for these two teenage girls."
The sisters are now in the care of the county's child protective services.