Ky-Lea Fortner and Shaeleen Fitch-Fortner were discovered in Vestal, New York, about 15 miles from where they went missing

By Tim Nudd
Updated March 11, 2016 09:45 AM
Credit: New York State Police

brightcove.createExperiences(); Two teenage sisters in upstate New York have been found almost a year after they went missing, and a woman described as a “family acquaintance” has been charged with kidnapping them, PEOPLE confirms.

Ky-Lea Fortner, 16, and Shaeleen Fitch-Fortner, 14, were located Wednesday at a home in Vestal, New York, state police said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. That’s about 15 miles from the Susquehanna Valley school in Conklin, where the girls were last seen on April 27, 2015, waiting to board a school bus at the end of the day.

The girls had been living with a foster family in Binghamton, New York, when they disappeared and were initially reported as runaways, police said. But authorities now say the girls were kidnapped.

Police on Wednesday arrested Amanda Hellman, 29, a resident of the home where the girls were found. She has been charged with second-degree kidnapping, a felony.

Hellman was “a family acquaintance of the victims,” police said. She was arraigned before Justice Joseph B. Meagher and remanded to the Broome County Jail without bail.

Hellman pleaded not guilty, according to the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin. The felony complaint claims she held the two girls against their will.

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“Hellmann … conducted numerous acts to prevent law enforcement from returning the two children to their foster parents,” the complaint says.

Broome County district attorney Steve Cornwell credited good police work for the breakthrough in the case. “Eleven months goes by … and you think the worst,” he said. “State police have honestly been working this case every single day. They didn’t give up.”

The girls were turned over to Broome County Family Services.