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The 9-year-old tries to kill 3 people. His relatives in Haiti refuse to believe he has a problem.

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Jacques needs to be examined. But his father’s denial and his caretaker’s beliefs have removed any hope of professional care

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Investigators would speak of criminal intent. ”During the five months spent with us, Jacques has tried to assassinate all of us”, reveals Gladys Augustin still in shock.

With crushed batteries, broken bottle pieces, several iron fibres and sweet syrup added to his diabetic host’s  food, the child sought not only to kill his “godmother” Gladys, but also the latter’s younger sister and niece who share the same roof.

Jacques’ father refuses to believe that his son can do what he is accused of. He entrusted the little one, only nine years old, to a member of his Christian congregation, Gladys Augustin, because he had to move. As for Augustin, she thinks that little Jacques is possessed by the “devil”.

It all happened the same week Anite, Gladys’s sister, informed the child that he would have to pass the school year. “When I got back from school on Monday afternoon, I told him that I would personally oversee his studies”, says Anite Augustin. “Because at the end of the year, he had to obtain a certain grade point average so that his parents could enroll him in another school”.

This is not the first time he has been asked to get down to business. But this is the first time he has taken it so badly. This is simply because he hates school and his father had lead him to believe that if he did not succeed, he would no longer send him.

These facts are however insufficient factors to cause a child to carry out such  acts, analyzes the psychiatrist Gislène Adrien. “A child who resorts to violence must necessarily have seen or suffered violence in his environment”.

A violent father

Interviews with relatives of Jacques’ father reveal the portrait of a violent man.

“Once, Jacques’ father pierced his tongue with a needle because he had lied. This is why Jacques always says he prefers his mother. The father, during an argument, sprayed the mother with gasoline. He struck a match which luckily did not catch fire. Once he calmed down, he spoke of it as his way to pressure his wife” says Gladys Augustin.

It remains difficult to diagnose a patient from a distance. However, these scenes, added to information to be retrieved in the school environment where the child refuses to go, the family environment, and the place where his parents have entrusted him, in order to see if he is mistreated or not, are all necessary to be able to explain the situation, argues the specialist.

Jacques therefore needs to be examined, continues the expert. But his father’s denial and his caretaker’s beliefs have removed any hope of professional care.

A detailed plan

The courtyard where the child lives has three distinct houses in an impoverished district of Port-au-Prince. Sarah, another child of around ten, lives in the same space. She often plays with Jacques who told her of his plan: he wanted to kill Sherlande first, Gladys’s niece, then Anite and finally the one he calls godmother. When Jacques decided to carry out his plan, Sarah was, without much astonishment, the first to know.

Kill the three women one by one. Call his father to tell him they died. And join him by taking their phone with him. Such is Jacques’ plan revealed to Sarah between two smiles.

One Tuesday afternoon, the little girl catches Jacques crushing an old battery lying in the yard. When she asks him what he intends to do with it, Jacques answers without hesitation that it is to be put in Scherlande’s food. So that the residues are not visible, Jacques puts them in a small bottle, then dilutes them in water before mixing everything with Scherlande’s meal.

Read also: The dangerous amalgamation of superstition and mental health in Haiti

Sarah informed her older sister of Jacques’s intentions. The latter did not take the information seriously.

Not stopping there, the next day, Jacques broke a bottle whose glass pieces were added to Anite’s plate. She also had a large needle in one of her shoes. There is no shortage of needles of all sizes in the house because the godmother’s sister, Anite Augustin, is a seamstress. This is how one of them will be found in a black shoe belonging to the young woman.

“If I myself had accidentally stepped on the needle, it would have bent and I would have pricked myself even before the body of the needle pierced the shoe, says Anite Augustin for whom it is obvious that the needle was forced by someone”.

It is also this episode that will allow them to discover what was going on. “While we were killing ourselves to understand how all this happened, whether it was the pieces of glass on my plate or the needle in my shoe, the son of my sister’s husband called his wife (Sarah’s older sister) who told us what her little sister had told her beforehand”.

No confession

After learning about it, everyone tried to get Jacques to talk. The questions rained down from everywhere. But the boy denied everything altogether. “He stammered, contradicted himself at every moment, but has not once admitted being guilty of what he is accused of”, states Gladys Augustin who, herself, was targeted on Thursday of the same week.

“Everyone, Jacques included, knows that I have diabetes and that I avoid consuming sugar. However, that afternoon, my meal was very sweet, except that it was not sugar. The rim of the plate had drops of a syrup that I immediately recognized. It was the same one taken by Jacques who, suffering from a hernia, is being treated. I took his bottle of syrup and confirmed my suspicion”.

Finally read: Depression, suicides … mental disorders kill in Haiti

“If the child lies all the time, there is a reason behind it which is important to find out”, says psychiatrist Gislène Adrien. If he is mistreated, malnourished, rejected or harassed, he will not be able to learn. If we devalue him, he will end up assimilating the message sent to him. And precisely, a caretaker’s language can condition a child him to adopt a certain type of behavior”.

Today, Gladys Augustin wants to keep Jacques for a few more months until he finishes the school year. However, some people sharing the home disagree.

“My niece fell ill last March and has stomach problems”, says the lady. One morning, while she was lying on the ground, Jacques stepped on her stomach and she suffered from it. We all thought he must have been asleep, so we thought it was an accident. But, he himself said afterwards that he had done it on purpose. Since she was the first target, Scherlande is among those who are against the idea that he remains with us”.

Any support by an expert would cost an arm and a leg to Jacques’ caretaker. Between the well-established beliefs regarding psychological and mental disorders, denial and financial precariousness, it remains difficult to determine what precisely is preventing them from referring the boy to an expert. A combination of all three elements is not to be disregarded.

Jacques is an assumed name used to protect the identity of the child.

Cover image by Gabriel Miguel Bero from Pixabay

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Rebecca Bruny
Rebecca Bruny est journaliste à AyiboPost. Passionnée d’écriture, elle a été première lauréate du concours littéraire national organisé par la Société Haïtienne d’Aide aux Aveugles (SHAA) en 2017. Diplômée en journalisme en 2020, Bruny a été première lauréate de sa promotion. Elle est étudiante en philosophie à l'Ecole normale supérieure de l’Université d’État d’Haïti

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