Image: Laura Silsby and Charisa Coulter
Carlos Barria  /  Reuters
Charisa Coulter, left, was freed Monday in Haiti. She is seen here with Laura Silsby leaving the courthouse in Port-au-Prince on Feb. 23.
updated 3/8/2010 9:26:58 PM ET 2010-03-09T02:26:58

One of two Baptist missionaries still held on kidnapping charges in Haiti has arrived in the U.S. after being released after more than a month in custody.

The father of 24-year-old Charisa Coulter says she went straight to a hotel after flying into Miami late Monday, hours after she was taken from her jail cell to the Haiti airport by U.S. Embassy staff.

Mel Coulter told The Associated Press he did not know when his daughter would return to Idaho.

Charisa Coulter and nine other Americans were arrested for trying to take 33 children out of Haiti after the earthquake. Only the leader of the Idaho-based missionary group, Laura Silsby, remains in custody. Mel Coulter says Silsby's situation makes his daughter's release bittersweet.

‘No prosecution witnesses’
Defense lawyer Louis Ricardo Chachoute said Coulter was released because there was no evidence to support the charges of kidnapping and criminal association. He predicted Silsby would be released soon as well.

“There are no prosecution witnesses to substantiate anything,” Chachoute said.

Coulter, of Boise, Idaho, is a diabetic and had medical difficulties during her confinement. She was treated at least once, on Feb. 1, by American doctors after collapsing with what she said was either severe dehydration or the flu.

After a court hearing Monday for Silsby, Judge Bernard Saint-Vil said he heard evidence from a police officer who said he stopped Silsby from loading a bus with children near the Dominican Republic consulate in Port-au-Prince on Jan. 26. That was three days before her group was arrested while trying to cross into the Dominican Republic with 33 children.

“I found inconsistencies in some of Laura’s statements,” Saint-Vil told reporters, saying he planned to visit the Dominican consulate to resolve them.

The Dominican consul in Haiti, Carlos Castillo, has said previously that he warned Silsby she lacked the required papers to leave the country with the children and risked being arrested at the border for child trafficking.

The Americans’ arrest came as Haitian authorities were trying to crack down on unauthorized adoptions to prevent child trafficking in the chaos following the catastrophic Jan. 12 earthquake.

‘There was no child snatching’
Silsby initially said the children were orphaned in the quake that the government said has killed more than 230,000 people. But the AP found the children had been given away by still-living parents.

Chachoute said the Americans only came to Haiti to help the country. “Firstly, there was no criminal conspiracy; secondly, there was no child snatching,” he said.

Silsby herself repeated Monday that “I came from very far, and I came here to help the children.”

The group planned to take the children to the neighboring Dominican Republic to an orphanage that Silsby was creating in a former hotel.

The judge released eight of the Americans on Feb. 17 after concluding parents voluntarily gave up their children in the belief that the Baptist group would give them a better life. But he decided he still had additional questions for Silsby and Coulter.

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