PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — A
Haiti judge freed one of two remaining Baptist volunteers Monday but kept the
group’s leader in jail pending further investigation.
Judge Bernard Saint-Vil allowed Charisa Coulter to be released, more than five weeks
after she and nine others were arrested Jan. 29 for trying to take 33 children
out of the earthquake-ravaged country to a makeshift orphanage in the Dominican
Republic. They allegedly did not have the proper paperwork.
Saint-Vil kept the group’s leader, Laura Silsby, in jail, Reuters and The
Associated Press reported.
Both Silsby and Coulter are members of Central Valley Baptist Church in
Meridian, Idaho. The other eight members of the group were released Feb. 18 and
are back in the United States. Coulter, too, is scheduled to fly back to the
Asked by Reuters how she felt, Coulter said, “Bittersweet. I am glad to go back
home but the experience has been very difficult.”
Saint-Vil actually signed the order on Friday to release Coulter but court administrators
could not find the proper stamp to make the release official, preventing her
release until Monday, Reuters reported.
Saint-Vil now is looking into a new charge against Silsby that she “was trying
to organize travel from Haiti for others without proper papers,” which is “a
lesser crime under Haitian law,” Reuters said.
In addition to Coulter, the freed group members are Carla Thompson and Nicole
and Corinna Lankford of Central Valley Baptist Church; 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