Haitian community leader arraigned in child sexual assault case

A girl who says she was sexually assaulted in 2006 and 2007 by Luckner Sylvain, a pastor at a Haitian church, kept the incidents a secret until late last year, when her mother asked her when she was going to be baptized, according to Norwich police.

The girl told her mother she didn't want to be baptized because she knew that Sylvain, a pastor at the First Haitian Baptist Church, would be involved with the ceremony. She said he had sexually assaulted her multiple times while she and her mother lived with Sylvain's family. She was 12 years old at the time.

The girl then talked with Katherine Eyberse of Norwich Youth and Family Services, who notified the Department of Children and Families. DCF contacted the police.

Knowing he was under investigation, Sylvain, 49, of 44 South A St., Taftville, fled to Haiti on Dec. 4, according to police. With the assistance of Haitian authorities and the U.S. State Department, Sylvain was captured and brought to Miami. He waived extradition and was returned to Connecticut on Tuesday to face charges of first-degree sexual assault, fourth-degree sexual assault and two counts of risk of injury to a minor.

Sylvain wore an orange paper jumpsuit over his clothing and was shackled at the wrists and ankles during his arraignment before Judge Hunchu Kwak. The judge set bond at $200,000, noting the seriousness of the charges, and transferred the case to the New London court where major crimes are heard. Sylvain's next court date is May 14. The judge ordered him to have no contact with the victim.

Sylvain has been in the country for nine years and has no criminal record, according to Bail Commissioner Lois Dupointe. He is listed as a United States citizen on a police report.

Church officials could not be reached for comment.

Sylvain also is the co-founder of the Bethany Foundation, a group dedicated to raising funds to help Haitian children affected by the earthquake in January 2010.

The girl said Sylvain began touching her sexually as soon as she and her mother moved in with him, his wife and their three daughters, according to an arrest warrant affidavit prepared by Detective Damon R. Wallace.

She said he would tell her he was teaching her a lesson so that when she gets older, she would know what to expect. The girl said Sylvain would come into her bedroom and force her to perform sexual acts, estimating the incidents occurred about 30 times. In the summer of 2007, while the girl was helping Sylvain work on a rental home he owned, she said he sent his own daughter away and forcefully and painfully sexually assaulted her.

The girl said that Sylvain begged her not to talk about the incidents and, in November, told her "if she was God's child, she would forgive him." She said that on Thanksgiving, when she was at his home, he put his hand on her neck and squeezed to where it caused her pain.

Detective Wallace went to the Sylvain home to interview him on Dec. 6. His wife said he was at work. Two days later, the wife told DCF investigator Tim Curtis that Sylvain had left for Haiti on Dec. 4 without telling her.

When Wallace contacted Sylvain's wife on Jan. 6, she said her husband had been in Haiti since Dec. 4 and that she had spoken to him by phone. When she asked him why he left, the wife said, he would only say, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry" and cry, according to the warrant.

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