PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Two
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
“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
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
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
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by Michael Foust, an assistant editor of Baptist