A Florida man in custody in Haiti faces first-degree murder charges in the deaths of his wife and five children, authorities said Tuesday.
Police obtained a warrant overnight to arrest Mesac Damas, 33, on suspicion of six counts of first-degree murder, the Collier County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. “This warrant was obtained based on information and evidence collected thus far in the investigation and statements made by Damas to a federal agent after his detention in Haiti,” the statement said. The body of Damas’ wife, Guerline Damas, 32, was found Saturday in the family’s North Naples, Florida, home, along with those of the couple’s five children — Michzach, 9; Marven, 6; Maven, 5; Megan, 3; and Morgan, 11 months, police said. Authorities have not said how the five were killed, but Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk described the scene as “horrific.” Police released few new details in the case at a Tuesday news conference, except to say they think the killings were premeditated. They added that under the law, “premeditated” does not necessarily mean a crime was planned far in advance. Damas was last seen about 9 p.m. Thursday at the Naples restaurant where he was employed as a cook, authorities said. On Friday, he is thought to have arrived at Miami International Airport about 7 a.m. He boarded a flight for Haiti about 10 a.m., Rambosk said. His car was found at the airport. He purchased a one-way ticket to Haiti, police said Tuesday. Police had asked the FBI and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for help in finding Damas. The FBI’s legal attach in the Dominican Republic notified Collier County authorities that a man believed to be Damas was taken into custody Monday by the Haitian National Police.
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“Information obtained by CCSO shows Damas was found hiding near a hotel in the capital city of Port-au-Prince,” a sheriff’s statement said Tuesday. The judge who signed the warrant ordered that Damas be held without bond upon his return to Collier County, authorities said. If convicted of six counts of first-degree murder, Damas could face life in prison or the death penalty. Collier County investigators are traveling to Port-au-Prince on Tuesday to interview Damas, the statement said. Rambosk said authorities are looking into two options to return Damas to Florida: following the normal extradition process, or having him deported from Haiti, since he is a U.S. citizen. Mesac and Guerline Damas had a history of domestic violence, police said. Mesac Damas was arrested in January, and pleaded no contest to misdemeanor battery charges against his wife in June. Police said they did not believe he served any jail time, and did not think a restraining order was currently in place regarding the couple. However, an arrest warrant was issued Monday for Damas on charges of violating probation stemming from the January arrest. The Damases had been married about 10 years, Rambosk said. He did not know how long they had lived in Naples. The six bodies were found about 6:30 p.m. Saturday, a day after police had visited the home to check on the family, Collier County sheriff’s Capt. Chris Roberts said. A family member asked police to conduct a welfare check on the home Friday, saying a resident there had not been heard from, Roberts said. Responding officers knocked on the door and got no answer, he said, but they saw nothing that aroused their suspicions.
The following morning, the family member became more concerned and filed a missing persons report, Rambosk said. Later, authorities requested a key to the house from property management, as well as authorization to enter. Rambosk said Tuesday the victims’ family members are “extremely emotional and distraught.”