Florida couple Abigail and Jean-Dickens Toussaint, both 33, were visiting Haiti when they were kidnapped just an hour after landing. Their abductors are demanding $200,000 for their safe return.
The couple were allegedly traveling to Haiti to visit a sick relative and attend a community festival, despite calls by the US State Department to refrain from traveling to the country due to "kidnapping, crime, and civil unrest."
The local gang that carried out the abduction appear to have targeted Americans, as the Daily Mail reported that they stopped the Port-au-Prince bus that the couple were on and demanded that all Americans get off.
Though the couple’s family had urged them not to go, due to gangs and political unrest that have upended the small country, they decided to go anyway.
Apparently a family friend traveled with the couple, and was also taken.
“We were very worried when they said they were going, we told them not to go but they wanted to go,” Nikese Toussaint, a relative, said.
Before the couple was taken, they reportedly messaged their family to tell them they had landed safely around 8:55 am, but they never provided another update, according to ABC 7.
The abductors initially asked for $6,000 for the couple’s return, before dramatically increasing the amount to $200,000. It is unclear why the amount was substantially increased.
Christie Desormes, the couple’s niece, noted that they “don’t have that type of money.”
It is not clear how the abductors communicated with the family.
Desormes said: “It’s a lot of emotions, it’s devastating, you feel angry it happened and then you feel numb at the same time because it doesn’t feel real.”
“They are U.S. citizens. They are parents. They are siblings. They are my family. They are loved and most of all they are people who desperately need your help.”
Desormes is said to have started a Change.org petition that intends to get the attention of politicians who can ensure that her aunt and uncle safely return home.
The Daily Mail reported that there were 4,500 signatures as of Sunday.
The US State Department is already involved.
“When a U.S. citizen is missing, we work closely with local authorities as they carry out their search efforts, and we share information with families however we can,” the Department released in a statement.