Authorities bring charges in kidnapping of elderly North Country couple

North Country

MOIRA, N.Y. (WFFF) — Residents of Moira, New York, are still grappling with the alleged kidnapping of a local couple who were found safe earlier this week. Investigators say the couple is now safe after being kidnapped and missing for days

Five people, including four from Canada, face charges in what the FBI is calling the international kidnapping of James Helm, 76, and Sandra Helm, 70, both reported missing September 27. Quebecois police said four out of those five are being held, and will appear in a Montreal court. Police in Canada are working with the New York State Police and the FBI, which says it’s tracking leads that suggest drug-related activity.

On Thursday in the Northern District of New York,  Graigory Brown, 50, of Plattsburgh was charged with conspiring to kidnap the elderly couple and transport them to Canada. The complaint against Brown alleges that he and his co-conspirators broke into their ’ Franklin County home, kidnapped them, and drove them to Snye, Quebec.

Here, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, they were put in a boat, taken to the mainland, and held at Quebec’s eastern townships. While the Helms were in Canada, Brown’s co-conspirators allegedly sent ransom demands to one of the Helms’ children.

The charge against Brown carries a maximum sentence of life in prison if he’s convicted, a potential fine of up to $250,000, and five years of supervised release.

Moira Town Supervisor Justus Martin says the couple have always been kind members of the community.

“They have caring hearts. Recently, my son had a project he was working on and Jim. He volunteered to come and help my son with it. They really have a heart for the community,” said Martin.

Mr. Helm’s colleagues at the Moira Highway Department say they noticed something strange around 6 a.m. Monday when he didn’t show up for work. They tried calling. “Obviously, he was not available or wasn’t reachable, which was unusual for Jim. He was always very available and committed to what he’s doing,” said Martin.

Sargent Audriey-Anne Bilodeau with Quebec Provincial Police, Surete du Quebec, says the Helms were found across the border in Magog, Quebec, about three hours from home.

“They were found safe and sound by our officer, she would say at approximately 5 p.m., in the Magog area, which is the province of Quebec,” said Bilodeau.

Bilodeau said four were charged with kidnapping, forcible confinement, extortion, and conspiracy. When asked about the motive or why this Moira couple may have been targetted, Bilodeau said she couldn’t share those details.

“The investigators are keeping those kinds of details to show in front of the courthouse when the suspects are going to appear. When you interrogate suspects, they are the only ones who know the motive. So normally we don’t say it like this. It’s really part of the investigation,” said Bilodeau.

Customs and Border Protection in St. Albans could not comment as the investigation is still ongoing.

Martin says the community is left with questions but their hearts go out to the couple.

“How could this happen? Why did it happen? There are people concerned about their own safety but, I mean, the primary concern was for Jim and Sandra…that was clearly the concern,” said Martin.


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