TAMARAC, Fla. (NewsNation) — A Florida couple who were being held hostage in Haiti is now back home and speaking publicly for the first time about their release and what conditions were like.
Jean-Dickens (JD) Toussaint, an accountant, and Abigail Michael Toussaint, a social worker, had traveled to Haiti to visit family members. On March 18, they were kidnapped by a gang while traveling to the town of Leogane on a public bus.
In an exclusive interview with NewsNation, the couple said a third family member from Haiti was also held captive. They said the three of them were shacked up in a room for weeks with only one meal a day and barely any water.
Abigail and JD are now breathing a sigh of relief.
“It’s been hard,” Abigail said.
The Florida couple had traveled to Haiti to help family and visit their sick uncle.
That trip turned into a life-or-death situation.
“They were armed, heavily armed, with military-grade weapons,” JD said of his captors.
The Toussaints were taken by a Haitian gang and held hostage for weeks, and according to Abigail, the days were long.
Family members paid someone they trusted $6,000 to ransom the missing relatives, but the money disappeared, and the couple continued to be held.
The kidnappers then raised the ransom to $200,000.
But the Toussaints said they never gave up hope that they would make it out alive.
“We knew we weren’t going to die there,” Abigail said.
“We never put (death) in our mind. No,” JD added.
The hardest part for JD was not seeing or hearing from their son, Jayce, who just turned two.
Right now, Haiti has a level four travel advisory because of high levels of kidnapping, crime and civil unrest.
In recent months, the Justice Department has unsealed criminal charges against Haitian gangs, including gang leaders involved in the armed kidnappings of 16 American citizens in the fall of 2021.
Ongoing violence in Haiti has included at least 101 kidnappings in the first two weeks of March, mostly targeting Haitian citizens.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said in part, “They are committed to disrupting these kidnapping-for-ransom schemes.”
With the help of the FBI and State Department, Abigail and JD were released and have since been reunited with their son.
“He embraced me, and I just felt all the love,” Abigail said of the reunion. “Words couldn’t explain how happy I was when he said mommy.”
The Toussaints are trying to get back to normal life, but in the meantime, they said they are still working with the FBI and State Department on their investigation.
NewsNation writer Devan Markham contributed to this report