2 Baptist detainees still in Haiti jail
Baptist Press
March 05, 2010

2 Baptist detainees still in Haiti jail

2 Baptist detainees still in Haiti jail
Baptist Press
March 05, 2010


weeks after their eight team members were released and allowed to return to the

United States, two female Baptist volunteers remain in a Haiti jail, optimistic

they’ll be freed soon but still awaiting the final word from the judge

overseeing the case.

Laura Silsby and Charisa Coulter, members of Central Valley Baptist Church in

Meridian, Idaho, have been in jail since Jan. 29 when they and their team

members were arrested on charges of child kidnapping and criminal association

when they tried to take 33 children out of the earthquake-ravaged country and

to a makeshift orphanage in the Dominican Republic. They allegedly did not have

the proper paperwork.

Silsby, the group leader, told The Associated Press Wednesday that she and

Coulter expect to be released soon, and that they’d even come back to Haiti in

the future.

“Oh yes, both of us would come back to Haiti because there is so much need

here, especially for the children,” Silsby said. “We would definitely come back

to help them once this misunderstanding or whatever you want to call it is

sorted out.”

Their friends and family members back home have thought for more than a week

they would be released any day — mostly because of repeated media reports that

proved to be full of false hope.

On Tuesday, Feb. 24, Judge Bernard Saint-Vil told Reuters “the case will be

over this week because we have no criminal grounds to pursue it” and that the

two women “could be released this week.” But two days later Saint-Vil said the

two women would remain in jail because he wanted to obtain more testimony from


In a Tuesday, March 2, article, The Associated Press paraphrased Saint-Vil as

saying “he’ll likely order the release” of the women after a hearing that very

day. But after the hearing concluded Saint-Vil said he needed to give all the

evidence to the prosecutor and wait for his reply. Saint-Vil added that

whatever the prosecutor recommends, the “final decision is mine.”

A day later, a CNN.com article reported that Saint-Vil “will decide Wednesday

the fate” of the women, although the day concluded with no news of any ruling.

Louis Ricardo Chachoute, an attorney for the Americans, told The Associated

Press he believes his clients will be released by the end of the week.

“What I can say is our clients are innocent,” Chachoute said. “They only wanted

to help.”

The other eight team members were released from jail Feb. 18. Saint-Vil kept

Silsby and Coulter in jail because he had further questions for them.

The freed group members are Carla Thompson and Nicole and Corinna Lankford of

Central Valley Baptist; Paul Thompson, his son Silas and Steve McMullen of

Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho; Jim Allen of Paramount Baptist

Church in Amarillo, Texas; and Drew Culberth of Bethel Baptist Church in

Topeka, Kan. Bethel Baptist is the only church not affiliated with the Southern

Baptist Convention.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by Michael Foust, an assistant editor of Baptist