The FBI on Wednesday included a Haitian gang leader on its list of the 10 most wanted fugitives for the kidnapping and murder of U.S. missionaries in Haiti, but acknowledged that his capture will be a complicated task in a nation mired in chaos.
Along with the announcement, the U.S. State Department said it will pay up to $2 million for information leading to the arrest of Vitel’Homme Innocent, known only by his first name. The man has already been formally charged in the U.S. for the armed kidnapping of 16 Christian missionaries in 2021, and for the murder of missionary Marie Franklin and the kidnapping of her husband, Jean, in 2022.
Most of the first Christian Aid Ministries group, which included five children, escaped after 61 days in captivity and the others were released. Jean Franklin was released after three weeks when his family paid a ransom.
According to the FBI, Vitel’Homme heads the Kraze Bayre gang and worked in conjunction with the 400 Mawozo gang to carry out the kidnappings. The agency believes Vitel’Homme is still in Haiti and could face the death penalty in the United States should he be captured and convicted of Franklin’s murder.
“He’s a threat to the island and he’s clearly a threat to U.S. citizens,” Jeffrey B. Veltri, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Miami office, told a news conference.
Veltri acknowledged that even if authorities had information about Vitel’Homme’s location, his capture would be complicated by the chaos in Haiti. Just Wednesday, a heavily armed gang stormed a hospital and took hundreds of women, children and newborns hostage.
The country’s gangs have become more powerful than the government since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021, and have better and higher caliber weapons than the police. Leaders of the armed groups continue to operate in impunity, evading previous UN sanctions and criminal charges brought by U.S. federal authorities.
The UN Security Council approved in early October the deployment of a Kenyan-led multinational force to help combat the gangs, but the Caribbean nation’s leaders are now reluctant. They say Kenyan personnel need further training and funding, and have not announced a deployment date.
Veltri said that if Vitel’Homme is located, “we will work with our international partners, but it is an ongoing process. … Haiti presents unique challenges.”