Idahoans arrested in Haiti headed for court Monday

Idahoans arrested in Haiti headed for court Monday


by Nishi Gupta
Idaho's NewsChannel 7


Posted on January 31, 2010 at 11:19 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 1 at 11:34 PM

HAITI -- New video and new information has surfaced Sunday night about the ten Americans arrested in Haiti, five of them from right here in the Treasure Valley.

They're accused of child trafficking and Monday they'll be in court to answer to those charges.

Their supporters believe the group's charges will be dropped and their reputation cleared.

The group left more than a week ago with the intent to rescue Haitian children devastated by the earthquake.

They called themselves New Life Children's Refuge.

But they're accused of not providing refuge, but rather a money-making operation in the country's darkest hour.

The Americans are accused of running an illegal adoption scheme.

One of them, Laura Silsby from the Treasure Valley, denied that charge as she was being escorted by police.

"We had been told by a number of people, officials, that it was okay for the pastor to sign that he was entrusting them into our care and the Dominican government had already approved that we would be able to care for those children in the Dominican Republic," Silsby said.

The video clip of Silsby was one of the first seen of the church group after their arrest.

Another video clip shows Charisa Coulter, 24, from Kuna, a diabetic who fell sick in jail.

Of the ten Americans in the group, five of them work for Meridian's Central Valley Baptist Church.

In addition to Silsby and Coulter are also Carla Thompson and Nicole and Corinna Lankford.

Central Valley Baptist Church Pastor Clint Henry was relieved to see that members of his congregation were okay.

"It was very emotional to me,” Henry said. “Up until that I point I had not seen any pictures of them.”

Now, Henry is waiting to see what Monday’s trial will bring.

“At the present time we're waiting for the outcome of events tomorrow and hoping and praying that that outcome will be the one that we're looking for so that the team that has been falsely charged will be vindicated and that the whole world knows that we weren't there doing the kind of things that we're accused of doing," Henry said.

The group left more than a week ago to rescue orphaned children. Henry said they were inspired by God.

"One of the reasons that our church wanted to help is because we believe that Christ has asked us to take the gospel to the whole world and that includes children," he said.

The plan was to take the children to the Dominican Republic and then find them homes, possibly in the U.S.

Saturday, the parents of group member Charisa Coulter told KTVB the group made it to the Dominican border, but were refused passage due to a lack of paperwork.

When they returned to Port au Prince to gather more documents, they were arrested.

Coulter was able to make a quick call to her parents.

"They had children on the bus, but she said, ‘We're locked in an alley and we can't leave.’ She said they didn't have water or any food or anything," said Brenda Coulter, Charisa's mother.

Clint Henry said today the church received many threatening and obscene phone calls, attacking the group.

He said his church, Central Valley Baptist, did not organize this adoption mission on their own. They worked with other church ministries in the Dominican Republican to make it happen.

The 33 children are now being cared for by an Austrian-based orphanage, S.O.S Children’s Village, in Haiti. They range in age from two months to 12 years old.

The director said the kids were hungry and thirsty when they got to his orphanage.

But comments he made today are raising new questions.

"We already know that some of these children have parents because an elder girl, she might be 8 or 9 years old, told us, crying, ‘I am not an orphan. I do have my parents, I thought I was going to boarding school or to a summer camp,’" said Georg Willeit with S.O.S Children's Village.

Haitian police say more investigation is needed as to whether this was a rescue mission with mistakes made or a crime.

The time for Monday’s hearing has not been specified, but stay with KTVB and KTVB.COM for updates.