Davy and Natalie Lloyd: US brokered gang negotiations to secure bodies of US missionaries in Haiti


The first U.S. commercial flight to Haiti in months made a grim round trip Thursday morning, returning with the bodies of a young American couple killed by a gang in Port-au-Prince last week.

The remains of Davy and Natalie Lloyd were accompanied on the flight by U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Dennis Hankins and U.S. security agents, according to a source close to the operation. After flying from Haiti to Miami, they will be sent to their families.

“This morning, the remains of Davy and Natalie Lloyd departed safely on a flight back to the United States. There will be a series of stopovers and they will reach Neosho, Missouri, safely tomorrow afternoon” , we can read in a press release published by their families. on the X account of Natalie’s father, a Missouri state representative. Ben Baker, requesting confidentiality during the transfer.

“We praise the Lord for His protective hand in the face of this nightmare. The funeral will take place early next week, with more details to come tomorrow,” she also said.

Their return follows a week of extraordinary negotiations between the U.S. government and Haitian authorities, local organizations and even gang leaders, according to sources – all in a city paralyzed by criminal groups who have disrupted the importation of vital humanitarian supplies, destroyed medical facilities and blocked main roads.

In a statement to CNN, a US State Department spokesperson confirmed that US officials in Haiti are “assisting, in accordance with the wishes of the families, in making arrangements to transport the deceased and their personal belongings to the United States “.

“We will continue to work around the clock until the remains are repatriated to the United States,” the spokesperson added.

Ralph Tedy Erol/Reuters

Toussaint Louverture International Airport, which reopened after being closed for nearly three months due to gang violence, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on May 20.

The reopening this month of Toussaint Louverture International Airport – a former target of coordinated gang attacks – marks an important step in connecting the Haitian capital to the rest of the world, after months of violence in the Caribbean country ravaged by gangs. Local carrier Sunrise resumed flights earlier in May.

But that progress was overshadowed by the killing last week of three missionaries — the Lloyds and Haitian mission director Jude Montis — in a high-profile incident that drew the attention of U.S. officials and the White House.

The three were attacked early in the evening at the Missions en Haïti church and orphanage in the Lizon neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, in what began as an armed robbery by a gang that left their compound ransacked and their supplies and aid stolen.

A second gang later arrived on the scene and came under fire, precipitating deadly reprisals against mission staff, according to Davy Lloyd’s father and founder of Missions in Haiti, David Lloyd, who was on the phone with his son that night.

Montis and the Lloyds barricaded themselves inside their residence in the compound, but it wasn’t enough, Lloyd told CNN. The missions in Haiti announced their deaths that night.

In the frantic hours following the attack, staff at the Missouri U.S. Rep.’s office. Eric Burlison, U.S. Senator from Missouri. Josh Hawley and the U.S. National Security Council contacted the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Haiti.

“As soon as I found out about the situation, we immediately contacted the State Department to try to get help. Unfortunately, help could not arrive in time to avert the tragedy,” Burlison said in a statement to CNN.

“Since their murder, we have worked closely with the senator. Hawley, the State Department and the airlines to get them home to their families,” he added. “I would like to thank everyone who contributes to these efforts.”

Natalie Lloyd’s mother, Naomi Baker, is on staff in Burlison’s office and her father, Ben Baker, is a Missouri state representative.

Ralph Tedy Erol/Reuters

U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Dennis Hankins walks after the Haiti transition council ceremony on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, April 25, 2024.

After the shock of these deaths, it became clear Friday morning that the bodies of Davy and Natalie urgently needed to be found — an operation that would be carefully orchestrated by the U.S. government, according to multiple sources.

There was no time to lose.

“The bodies could have been desecrated or kidnapped,” a person involved in the operation told CNN. “So we removed them from a crime scene.”

The private ambulance service HERO Client Rescue was tasked with recovering the bodies Friday morning even before Haitian authorities arrived on the scene. But HERO founder Stacy Librandi Bourne told CNN that her teams were rushing to reach the site when they were suddenly blocked on the road by armed gang members.

The standoff prompted an extraordinary intervention by U.S. officials in Haiti, who quickly moved to mediate negotiations between several gangs in the region to free up access to the bodies, a knowledgeable source told CNN.

In a phone call with several gang leaders, Vitel’homme Innocent – ​​a gang leader whose armed group Kraze Baryé was not involved in the attacks but controls an area around the US embassy – said claimed the bodies of the two Americans.

“Following the call, I did everything in my power to communicate with the people controlling the area to gain access and recover their bodies,” Innocent told CNN.

He added: “It was a sad story when I learned that a Haitian and two Americans who came to serve the people died in a terrible situation. »

Innocent himself is the subject of a $2 million bounty for alleged kidnappings of American citizens, which he disputes, saying he hopes to one day defend himself.

Odelyn Joseph/AP

A funeral procession for mission director Judes Montis, killed by gangs alongside the two American missionaries, heads to the cemetery after his funeral in Port-au-Prince on Tuesday.

Emergency vehicles were quickly allowed to continue towards the charred site where they found the three bodies.

The remains of Davy, 23, and Natalie Lloyd, 21, were eventually transferred to a local hospital morgue for safekeeping, according to HERO. Sources involved in the operation told CNN that inspection of the bodies revealed signs of blunt force trauma and severe burns on Davy, but no apparent gunshot wounds.

Removing human remains from a crime scene is a significant breach of protocol, even in a city plagued by lawlessness. However, Haitian officials agreed to inspect the remains after they were moved, a source told CNN.

The Haitian National Police did not respond to CNN’s request for comment on this story, but in a statement last week, police spokesman Gary Desrosiers told CNN that authorities would work with international law enforcement to investigate and prosecute the killings.

Odelyn Joseph/AP

Eunide Majeur Montis, the wife of murdered mission director Judes Montis, cries after attending his funeral on May 28.

The director of missions in Haiti, Jude Montis, 45, was buried in Port-au-Prince this week. Local press showed large crowds gathered outside the church where his funeral was taking place, and a mournful group following his hearse down the street could be seen later.

But the Lloyds’ bodies were waiting until now to return to Missouri.

Natalie’s father, Ben Baker, described the ongoing obstacles to bringing back his daughter and son-in-law on his Facebook page, in a post signed by Baker’s spokeswoman, Cassidy Anderson.

“Currently we are working to recover the bodies of Natalie and Davy. We must obtain a waiver that will allow their bodies to be transported without being fully embalmed due to the lack of facilities offering this service in Haiti. After that, you will need to find an airline that will agree to carry out the transport. Let’s pray that everything goes well,” we can read.

The last hospital in Port-au-Prince with the resources to carry out embalming would be the general hospital near Champ de Mars, sources told CNN – but the urban war between gangs and police has transformed the iconic downtown park into an unstable neighborhood. the land of man.

Waiting for news of the bodies’ safe return has strained the nerves of family and supporters, with Hawley releasing a public letter over the weekend demanding that the Biden administration ensure their safety.

“The bodies of Natalie and Davy will have to be transported to the final departure point and, until then, the risks are major. The situation on the ground in Port-au-Prince remains anarchic,” he warned.

But on Thursday morning, the bodies of Davy and Natalie Lloyd finally began their long journey home.

CNN’s AnneClaire Stapleton, Hande Atay Alam, Natalie Barr and Nikki Carvajal contributed to this report.

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