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Crime News Breaking News

Florida Agency Said Kids Had Been 'Fine' After Mother Was In Custody For Their Murders

The Florida Department of Children and Families had regular contact with Odette Joassaint and her family starting in 2017. She was charged with the murders of her kids in April.

By Jax Miller
7 Facts About Child Abuse and Prevention

An agency tasked with overseeing the welfare of children is under fire after it was discovered that an investigator entered a belated report stating that the two children had been doing well after they were murdered.

Odette Joassaint, 41, was arrested on April 12 for the violent murders of her two children at their Miami, Florida, home. However, one day later, an investigator with the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) noted in the agency’s computerized system that “everything was fine” with the family at a visit nine days prior, according to records recently obtained by the Miami-Herald.

Officers arrived at the Northeast 75th street home in the Little Haiti neighborhood following a series of hang-up calls placed to 911 from the apartment, according to the Associated Press. Inside was Joassaint’s 3-year-old son, Jeffry, and her 6-year-old daughter, Laura, hogtied, facedown in their beds and strangled to death, according to ABC Miami affiliate WPLG.

They were pronounced dead on the scene.

A police handout of Odette Joassaint

On April 13, a DCF investigator retroactively noted that in the case file that Joassaint had said everything was fine during his last visit. The notes apparently pertained to April 2 visit at the home of the children’s father, 45-year-old Frantzy Belval, who had been seeking full custody in an ongoing battle with his estranged ex and was not living with her at the time.

“He likes to play, laugh, and grab things,” the investigator wrote regarding the son.

For the daughter, the reporter entered that “she is a quiet child [who] is well-behaved.”

It's not clear if the investigator who entered the belated notes knew the children were dead when he entered the report.

The files showed that Joassaint regularly refused to meet with investigators, who nonetheless made notes that everything was fine.

The agency sent WPLG a statement in May.

“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,” the statement read in part. “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.”

DCF became involved with the family back in November 2017 after Joassaint and Belval allegedly became engaged in a physical altercation during which Joassaint “bit his right arm and would not let go,” according to WPLG. Records stated Belval then “‘fist-palmed’ the mother's forehead with enough force that she let go.”

She was arrested in the incident; the couple had one child together at the time and were also residing with Joassaint's daughter from a prior relationship.

According to DCF’s investigation, Joassaint wound up homeless after the altercation, sometimes spending time at a local women’s shelter, according to WPLG. She then went to Haiti for several months, losing her place at the shelter, and returned to living with Belval.

In 2019, Belval was arrested for aggravated battery against a pregnant woman, according to WPLG, and Joassaint was pregnant with their second child.

In 2020, DCF reported “concern” about Joassaint’s “ongoing ability to care for the children” after she reportedly stopped taking medication for treating depression, according to the Miami-Herald.

“She has been having delusional thoughts,” according to allegations received by DCF. “She has been acting bizarre.”

(When she was arrested in April, police believed she was hallucinating and said she told them of her then-deceased children, "Come get them, I don’t want them anymore.”)

DCF repeatedly cited a lack of evidence of abuse towards the youngest children to support their removal from the home, WLPG reported.

Joassaint was, however, accused of failing to provide prescription medication to her then-14-year-old daughter and supplying the teen with liquor, according to the Miami-Herald. 

Despite Joassaint’s mental health being called into question, DCF claimed it was “not known why the mother did this” following the younger children’s deaths. They added, “there was no known reason to expect the mother to do this.”

According to the Miami-Herald, Belval regularly cooperated with the agency and had been seeking full custody of his children at the time of their deaths, though the option was allegedly not supported by DCF.

“They told me they were going to evaluate Odette,” Beval told the outlet. “DCF is responsible for all of it. DCF is responsible.”

Jail records were not immediately available to Oxygen.com, but according to CBS News, Joassaint was charged with two counts of first-degree murder. She remains at the county jail without bond.