UPDATED: Haitian community leader arraigned in child sexual assault case

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A Haitian church and community leader from Norwich who allegedly fled the country to avoid prosecution was arraigned in Superior Court this afternoon on charges that he sexually assaulted a 12-year-old girl multiple times in 2006 and 2007.

Luckner Sylvain, 49, of 44 South A. St., Taftville, is a pastor at the First Haitian Baptist Church and is the co-founder of the Bethany Foundation, a group dedicated to raising funds to helping Haitian children impacted by the earthquake in January 2010.

Norwich police said Sylvain fled Norwich for Haiti on Dec. 4, 2011 after learning the victim had disclosed that Sylvain had sexually assaulted her while she and her mother lived with Sylvain and his family in 2006 and 2007. With the assistance of Haitian authorities and the U.S. State Department, Sylvain was captured and transferred to Miami, Fla. He waived extradition and was returned to Connecticut on Tuesday.

Sylvain wore an orange paper jumpsuit over his clothing and was shackled at the wrists and ankles during his brief appearance before Judge Hunchu Kwak. There appeared to be nobody in the courtroom on his behalf. 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.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit prepared by Detective Damon R. Wallace, the girl told her mother about the abuse because the mother was asking her when she was going to be baptized. She said she didn't want to be baptized because she knew Sylvain would be involved.

The girl said Sylvain began touching her sexually as soon as she and her mother moved in with Sylvain, his wife and their three daughters, according to the affidavit. 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 2011 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.

When Detective Wallace contacted Sylvain's wife on January 6, 2012, the woman 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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