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Haiti police probing death of slain FHP trooper

Haiti National Police investigators are looking into the death of a Florida Highway Patrolman killed in the Caribbean nation last Friday.

Jean Barthelus, 47, was in Haiti visiting his ailing wife when he was shot and killed in the Turgeau neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. Initial reports say Barthelus was flagged down on a road, then shot and killed.

Rodrigue Pierre, assigned to Haiti’s Criminal Investigations Unit, said it is too early to draw any conclusions about Barthelus’s killing.

“The investigation is ongoing, and we are working on a number of hypothesis,” Pierre said. “The only thing we know is that he did not kill himself.”

Pierre and Haiti National Police (HNP) officials say they are receiving assistance from the Regional Security Office of the U.S. Embassy, as well as mentoring from U.S.-financed officers from the New York Police Department in the investigation. The NYPD officers are detailed from their department on a U.S. government-financed mentoring partnership with the HNP.

On Thursday, NYPD and HNP officers began a forensic investigation of Barthelus’ vehicle, Pierre said.

Barthelus’ violent death is among several high profile killings that have shocked Haiti recently. Late last month, four men confessed to killing Wesseler “Marie” Philippes, a Swiss woman, who was investigating the finances of an orphanage in northern Haiti. The two hired killers were paid $62.50 to kill Philippes, police said.

Last Saturday, hundreds of Haitians and U.S. Embassy personnel packed a Petionville church to mourn Marline Lamothe, trade and investment advisor for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Lamothe, 40, lived in Miami before moving back to Haiti five years ago. She was attacked by gunmen and later died of her wounds in a Port-au-Prince hospital.

“She consistently displayed courage, dedication and hard work and provided excellent leadership to her development partners,” Elénita Lahens, said in an email circulated shortly after Lamothe’s death.

“Her work promoting trade and investment in Haiti and encouraging diaspora investments and the greater participation of the Haitian business community in development contributed significantly to economic growth and stability and the close relationship USAID/Haiti enjoys with Haiti businesses at all levels.”

ln the aftermath of the earthquake, Lamothe, a mother of two, worked closely with the U.S. teams in their search and rescue efforts even while her own mother remained missing and presumed dead. Her body was discovered two weeks later under the rubble.

While kidnapping and other serious crimes are trending down, police say, the high profile deaths are a major concern.

Like with Barthelus’ killing, HNP’s investigation into Lamothe’s killing is receiving assistance from NYPD.

The family is planning to bury him next weekend, said Dorothy Borgelin, a cousin of Barthelus. They were anxiously awaiting the arrival of his body from Haiti on Friday, she said.

U.S. Congresswoman Frederica Wilson called the killing “senseless” and “brutal.” She said in a statement that she worked with “other state and federal agencies to relieve his family of the economic burden of recovering his body.”

“Trooper Barthelus was a beloved husband, father, son and brother,” she said. “He was the bedrock of his family, and they will need the support of the South Florida family as they cope with this tragic loss.”

Barthelus is survived by his wife, daughter, mother and several brothers and sisters. His brother, sister and mom all live in North Miami. Mayor Andre Pierre, who has visited the family, called on residents to help.

“I ask all of you, whatever you can do, please do so,’’ Pierre said from the dais at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. “The family is struggling."

Councilman Michael Blynn asked the city to donate money to the family and the city pledged to donate $10,000.

“This shows the humanity and love of this city for law enforcement officers,” Blynn said.

Miami Herald Staff Reporter Nadege Green contributed to this report.