Thousands of Haitian students filled the streets of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, on Thursday to demand justice for Evelyne Sincere, a 22-year-old high school senior who was kidnapped and killed.
Justice of the Peace Jean Flaury Raymond, who investigated the crime scene, told Le Nouvelliste newspaper that he saw evidence that the victim had been tortured. He said there were multiple bruises on her body. He also found evidence that she was sexually assaulted. He said the student's half-naked body was dumped by her kidnappers and dropped off at a garbage dump in the Delmas 24 neighborhood Nov. 1.
“Why is it always the poor who are targeted by these criminals?” a protester asked, after stopping to talk to VOA during the protest. “This is too much; we can’t stand it anymore. We are calling for justice!"
The protester complained that a big problem is that youth have no support from the government. "That’s why we are targeted by these criminals – and the government and police do nothing," he said.
The young woman's killing has roiled Haiti and the Haitian diaspora worldwide. Haitian soccer star Duckens Nazon, who plays for the national team, and world-renowned DJ Michael Brun were among those who posted photos of Sincere on their Instagram accounts expressing dismay.
Rapper Bricks from the popular group Barikad Crew joined protesters in Port-au-Prince.
"We're out here in a show of solidarity for the protesters. If I didn't feel threatened (by this violence), I wouldn't be out here," he told VOA. "The poor people are suffering, and so we need to be in the street to stop them from picking us off one by one."
Protesters ended their march in front of the Ministry of Justice and Public Security to demand Sincere's killer be brought to justice swiftly.
Suspect in custody
National Police Commissioner Michel-Ange Louis Jeune issued a warrant for the arrest of a young man named Joseph "Kiki" Obed in connection with the kidnapping and killing of the student earlier this week. Friends said Obed was Sincere’s boyfriend.
In a surprise development late Wednesday night, notorious gang leader Jimmy Cherisier – alias Barbecue – announced during a live broadcast on his Facebook page that he had apprehended Obed and turned him in to the chief of police. Obed was seen sitting next to the gang leader during the livestream.
VOA Creole spoke to the chief, who confirmed that Obed was in police custody, but he declined to make a statement on camera. The irony is that Barbecue has multiple warrants out for his own arrest. He is accused of terrorizing the residents of several slums and orchestrating mass killings in those neighborhoods. It is unclear why he was not apprehended by police when he made the drop.
Obed denies being involved in the crime.
Sincere's schoolmate and close friend told VOA Creole that Sincere often spoke about meeting up with her boyfriend Obed in the Delmas neighborhood where he lived.
“Evelyne came by my house on Wednesday morning (Oct. 28) – the day she was kidnapped – and told me she was heading to her sister’s house and then she was going to see Obed at his house.”
The friend said she received a phone call at 6 p.m. asking for a $6,000 ransom. She said she told the kidnapper she could not afford to pay that amount, and he responded that if she didn't, he would kill her friend and dump her on a pile of trash.
She said she tried to find enough money to pay the ransom but later realized she had been duped because while she was talking with him, the victim’s sister was at the morgue identifying Sincere's body.
Fellow students honor Sincere
Among the Jacques Roumain high school students who participated in the protest were some of Sincere's schoolmates who spoke of her dynamic personality.
"Evelyne was more than a family member, more than a mother, a sister, and they took her away from us – our hopes have been dashed," a male schoolmate who declined to give his name told VOA Creole.
One of Sincere's teachers spoke of the profound sadness they are left with.
"We are crying. She was a leader. I spent four years teaching Evelyne. She was a happy soul. She was engaged in the community. We have a right to live. It is our fundamental right," he said.
Rash of kidnappings
Kidnappings have terrorized Haiti for many years, targeting the wealthy and demanding ransoms of up to $100,000. What has unsettled Haitians this year is that the kidnappings now target residents of the poorest neighborhoods.
"The objective is to ask for a ransom, but they are targeting a specific category of people to make money. And that category is the lowest class," a protester told VOA. "I blame the government – they are using this scare tactic to prevent people from protesting."
The allegation that the government is linked to kidnappings is unsubstantiated.
President Jovenel Moise quickly condemned the killing of Sincere on his official Twitter account the day her body was discovered.
En tant que père de famille, je suis profondément choqué par l’enlèvement suivi de l’assassinat de la jeune écolière Evelyne Sincère. De telles atrocités sont inacceptables. Les autorités policières et judiciaires n’ont qu’un seul choix: mettre les bandits hors d’état de nuire.
— Président Jovenel Moïse (@moisejovenel) November 2, 2020
"As a father, I am profoundly shocked by the kidnapping and murder of the young student Evelyne Sincere. These types of atrocities are unacceptable. The police and law enforcement officials have no choice but to put the criminals responsible for this act in a place where they can no longer do harm," Moise tweeted.
US lawmaker sounds alarm
The Caribbean nation’s surge in violent crime has drawn attention from U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, who urged U.S. Ambassador Michele Sison to be vigilant in the face of what may be a rash of politically motivated killings.
"Use your considerable knowledge and experience in Haiti to prevent the country from descending into a downward spiral of chaos and violence," Waters wrote in May.