Triple murder shakes colony of deaf people in rural Haiti

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Deaf culture in Haiti
A deaf student counts numbers with his hands at the Mission de L'Espoir school in Leveque, Haiti, April 11, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH "DEAF HAITI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A deaf pupil puts a hearing aid on his ear at the Mission de L'Espoir school in Leveque, Haiti, April 11, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH "DEAF HAITI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Deaf men work at a carpenter's shop in Leveque, Haiti, April 11, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH "DEAF HAITI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Deaf residents speak in Creole sign language in Leveque, Haiti, April 16, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH "DEAF HAITI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A baby lies on a bed as her mother, who is deaf, enters the house in Leveque, Haiti, April 23, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH "DEAF HAITI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Geovany Pierre (C), a deaf carpenter, watches a man working at his shop in Leveque, Haiti, April 11, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH "DEAF HAITI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Evelyne Philippe, a deaf woman, embroiders a piece of fabric in Leveque, Haiti, April 10, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH "DEAF HAITI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Lezin Maxo, a deaf man, tries to open the gate of his house in Leveque, Haiti, April 23, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH "DEAF HAITI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A sign that reads "Love" in Creole sign language, shows the number of a house in Leveque, Haiti, July 3, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH "DEAF HAITI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A deaf girl runs and jumps in Leveque, Haiti, June 26, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH "DEAF HAITI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Deaf residents play dominoes in Leveque, Haiti, June 26, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH "DEAF HAITI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
The community where deaf and hearing residents live is seen in Leveque, Haiti, April 16, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH "DEAF HAITI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Deaf residents speak in Creole sign language in Leveque, Haiti, April 10, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH "DEAF HAITI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A deaf resident checks his phone as he sits on a bed in Leveque, Haiti, April 10, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH "DEAF HAITI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Josenel Exalus (C), who is deaf, plays with a girl who can hear but was born from deaf parents in Leveque, Haiti, June 26, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH "DEAF HAITI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A deaf resident wears a t-shirt related to the killing of three deaf women on March 18, in Leveque, Haiti, June 26, 2016. Symbol in Creole sign language means "Love". REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH "DEAF HAITI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Sylvain Jacqueline (L) and Petit-Homme Violaine (C) (both deaf) speak in Creole sign language on a bus on their way to a beach day trip in Leveque, Haiti, July 24, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH "DEAF HAITI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A deaf resident combs hair of another deaf resident in Leveque, Haiti, June 26, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH "DEAF HAITI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Deaf pupils of the Mission de L'Espoir school take a break between classes in Leveque, Haiti, April 11, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH "DEAF HAITI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Deaf residents of Leveque speak in Creole sign language on a beach in Montrouis, Haiti, July 24, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH "DEAF HAITI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Deaf people speak in Creole sign language in Leveque, Haiti, April 16, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH "DEAF HAITI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Micheler Castor shows a photo of himself with his wife, Jesula, who was killed on March 18, and his children, in Leveque, Haiti, April 10, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH "DEAF HAITI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Signs of the weekdays in Creole sign language hang on a wall at the Mission de L'Espoir school in Leveque, Haiti, April 11, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH "DEAF HAITI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A teacher teaches Creole sign language to pupils at the Mission de L'Espoir school in Leveque, Haiti, April 11, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH "DEAF HAITI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Residents of Leveque bathe on a beach in Montrouis, Haiti, July 24, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares ? SEARCH "DEAF HAITI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Petit-Homme Violaine who is deaf, plays with a daughter of another resident from Leveque on a beach in Montrouis, Haiti, July 24, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH "DEAF HAITI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
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LEVEQUE, Haiti, Sept 2 (Reuters) - A triple murder has shaken the village of Leveque in rural Haiti, testing the community and sense of security nurtured by its large population of deaf families who were relocated there after the devastating earthquake six years ago.

The murders of three deaf women, Vanessa Previl, Monique Vincent and Jesula Gelin as they tried to get home from the capital Port-au-Prince in March seemed a chilling reminder of the prejudices and superstition that many in the village grew up with, even in their own homes.

Built after the earthquake by Mission of Hope, a U.S. religious charity, and housing a high proportion of deaf families among its 615 households, Leveque's modest tin-roofed homes and unpaved streets have become a place of tolerance in an often hostile outside world.

SEE ALSO: Meet the two refugees with disabilities set to compete in the 2016 Paralympics

Some residents who remember being mistreated by their parents and kept apart from other children when they were young are free to be themselves here. A total of 115 homes were assigned to deaf families after the quake destroyed their homes in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere in the Caribbean nation.

While deaf people are considered good workers by some Haitian business, they also face discrimination because of superstitions about disabled people being possessed or punished by spirits.

In Leveque the school and church operate in Haitian Creole sign language as well as spoken Creole, and its deaf residents run small businesses including carpentry and jewelry-making from the quiet colony.

Others commute to work by bus the 34 km (21 miles) into Port-au-Prince from the village. When a collapsed bridge stopped their bus at some point en route, Previl, Vincent and Gelin decided to walk the rest of the way home.

The details of what happened next are unclear. Police have arrested a man and two women on suspicion they were accomplices in the crime. Mario Joseph, a lawyer representing the families of the dead, said the suspects told police they believed the women to be 'loups-garous,' a supernatural figure in Haitian folk culture.

Lynchings of people accused of being loups-garous became frequent in the wake of the 2010 earthquake, which killed some 220,000 people.

Some locals believe there is a more prosaic reason for the killings of the women, since one of the accused was known to Previl, said the lawyer, Joseph. The case is under investigation and nobody has been charged with murder.

In some ways the killings have brought the families of Leveque closer. Many residents sport t-shirts printed after the tragedy bearing an image of a hand sign that means "love" in Creole.

But even months after the events, the killings remain a main topic of conversation in this sleepy colony and among deaf people in nearby towns.

In Leveque, Previl's house is a haunting reminder that she is gone. The door is tightly shut, cobwebs hang from the walls and the garden is overgrown.

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