Mother Questions Haitian Migrant’s Drowning
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Simone Jeanty’s tears have not stopped since the day she received word her daughter, 24-year-old Judith Valentin drowned off the coast of West Palm Beach. Jeanty came from Haiti this week on a temporary visa to bury her.
Judith paid a smuggler to bring her to the United States illegally from the Bahamas last month. She was hoping to join her fiance in Miami. Jeanty was fearful to send her daughter on the trip.
“I was scared, but I thought she’d have the chance of a better life,” Jeanty said in Creole to CBS4’s Natalia Zea.
Through translator, Haitian rights activist Marleine Bastien, Jeanty said her daughter had big dreams.
“She loved to take care of people- she wanted to become a nurse.”
The group of ten migrants came close to the shore, possibly in wading waters. The nine others, including a three-year-old boy, made it to land and were detained by federal agents. Judith was the only one who died. Her body washed ashore. Palm Beach police said the preliminary autopsy showed she died by accidental drowning.
But recently, stories from other migrants on the boat made their way to Jeanty in Haiti. Some are alleging that her daughter did not simply drown- but was gang raped on the voyage and thrown overboard.
Jeanty doesn’t know if it’s true, but said that her daughter’s body has signs of trauma.
“Her face is all broken and smashed up…Her mouth is smashed up…she also has wounds on her head.”
The questions are too much for the grieving mother to take. She, along with Bastien are demanding an investigation into these new allegations.
“If a crime was committed I need justice to her- I need to find justice. I’m asking for justice.”
Judith’s funeral will be held Saturday in North Miami and her mother will have to return to Haiti shortly after that. Her visa expires October 23rd. She’s hoping to go home with more answers than she came with.
Zea called Palm Beach police who are handling Valentin’s death investigation. Our phone call was the first they had heard of the rape and murder allegations. They said that detectives will likely look into it. At this point, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is not confirming whether those nine migrants who survived the trip are still in South Florida for police to interview. The smugglers got away and the federal investigation also continues.