MIAMI (CBSMiami) – We’re learning more about Little Haiti mom Odette Joassaint. She’s accused of killing her 3-year-old son Jeffrey Belval along with his 5-year-old sister Laura.
Both were found bound at their ankles, wrists and neck. Investigators say they were strangled.
The Department of Children and Families knows this family well. They’ve interacted with them numerous times. They released hundreds of pages of documents to us.
There are multiple cases of domestic violence allegations between Joassaint and the father of the two victims going back to 2017. There were also unfounded allegations of mistreatment. That includes allegations in February of 2020 that Joassaint “…has not been taking her depression medication. There is a concern for her ongoing ability to care for the children.”
It goes on to say, “She has been having delusional thoughts. She has been acting bizarre. She is confused.”
It continues, “She has been exhibiting irrational behavior. There is a concern that she could harm the children if this goes on.”
Investigators said “no evidence was observed to support that there’s an immediate threat to the children.”
A manager at the homeless shelter where they lived told investigators she “…does not have any concerns for the mother as a parent. She feels like the mother is just different from other people, but she still takes care of her kids.”
We also learned that Joassaint has an older daughter who was sent to live with family in Haiti. According to documents, Joassaint did not want her daughter treated with medication for mental health issues.
After the murders DCF said, “There was no known reason to expect the mother to do this.”
It released this statement to CBS4 News:
“Every day, staff at the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) have the difficult responsibility of protecting Florida’s children while only removing children from a home if a parent is unfit to care for their children or is likely to harm their children. In this case, DCF investigators were very involved with the family and recommended many services, but there was no history of physical child abuse to the two young children that would have led to their removal. Still, you will find from these records that as DCF staff interacted with this family, they recommended many services that were ultimately refused, while those very services may have resulted in a much different outcome. It is for this reason that DCF recently launched the Family Navigator initiative to enhance the safety and well-being of Florida children after a report of potential child abuse or neglect. When a vulnerable family is assigned to a Family Navigator, that person will stay with the family, and rapidly engage with services through providers and community organizations. This resource focuses on supporting family well-being, understanding the needs of families contending with complex family dynamics, substance abuse and, in many tragic incidents, mental health crises. You can find more about this initiative here. These actions will help improve the Department’s work to wrap vulnerable families with intensive supports to maintain children in a safe, united home. It is our sincere hope that this initiative will help prevent tragedies like what happened to these two innocent children.”