Florida couple kidnapped in Haiti while traveling for festival, family says
A Florida couple was kidnapped in Haiti earlier this month and they remain detained, their family says.
Jean-Dickens Toussaint and Abigail Michael Toussaint, of Tamarac, Florida, were traveling to Jean-Dickens Toussaint’s hometown of Leogane, located in the southern part of the island country, to celebrate the festival of Rara and visit sick relatives.
The couple was on a public bus March 18 when it was stopped by gangs, Nikese Toussaint, Jean-Dickens Toussaint’s sister, told the Associated Press. The couple and another person were snatched from the bus by alleged members of a gang in the area.
The couple’s family has said the group is demanding $200,000 for each of the people kidnapped. It is not unusual for gangs or other groups in Haiti to refuse to release kidnapped people, even after receiving payment, the Associated Press reports.
Violence in the country has increased since the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in 2021. In the first two weeks of March, clashes between gangs have been responsible for 208 deaths, 164 injuries and 101 kidnappings, according to the United Nations.
Nikese Toussaint said her family has been in touch with the FBI. The FBI declined to provide additional details to USA TODAY.
The U.S. State Department has confirmed that it is aware of reports of two American citizens missing in Haiti.
'The pain gets a little harder'
Jean-Dickens Toussaint has been allowed to make two phone calls in recent days. He told his family that he and his wife are tied up, and he has not confirmed whether they are being given food or water, the Associated Press said.
Jean-Dickens Toussaint is an accountant, and Abigail Michael Toussaint is a social worker. The couple has a son who turns 2 years old on Tuesday.
“We’re trying to smile,” Nikese Toussaint told the Associated Press, describing video calls with the boy. “We have to smile with him, and give him love, and at the same time we get a little smile (from him), and that’s when the pain gets a little harder.”
Christie Desormes, the couple’s niece, told NBC Miami that the family is devastated.
“You feel angry it happened, and then you feel numb at the same time, because it doesn’t feel real,” Desormes said.
The State Department urges Americans not to travel to Haiti due to kidnapping, crime and civil unrest.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Florida couple kidnapped in Haiti, held for ransom, family says