Baptist Volunteers Charged with Kidnapping in Haiti May be Released

| by Baptist Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE -- Reuters news service reported Wednesday evening that the judge overseeing the case of 10 Baptist volunteers who are currently in jail has decided to release them -- perhaps as soon as Thursday -- although other reports out of the country said no final decision has been made.

The five men and five women were arrested Jan. 29 and accused of trying to kidnap 33 children out of the country, but the volunteers said they were simply taking the kids to safety in the Dominican Republican and that the children, ages 2 to 12, either were orphans or that the parents had granted permission. The volunteers denied there was any wrongdoing.

"The order will be to release them," a source told Reuters. "One thing an investigating judge seeks in a criminal investigation is criminal intentions on the part of the people involved and there is nothing that shows that criminal intention on the part of the Americans.”

The Associated Press and NBC News, though, reported that no final decision had been made, although AP said a decision was imminent.

Group leader Laura Silsby is a member of Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho, as are group members Charisa Coulter, Carla Thompson and Nicole and Corinna Lankford. Three detainees are from Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho: pastor Paul Thompson, his son Silas and church member Steve McMullen. The other detainees are Jim Allen, a member of Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo, Texas, and Drew Culbert, a firefighter who also is an assistant youth pastor at Bethel Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan. Bethel Baptist is the only church not affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.