Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Mysterious Reappearance of Heather Elyse

(This is the story of events that happened four years ago in Haiti. If you missed yesterday's post, please read it first and then come back to this one.)

Early in the morning, the emails started flowing again.

Thursday, Feb 7, 2013 at 5:56 AM [Staff member]
Ryan F, Nick, and Laura Brown traveled by tap tap to the hotel last night where we stayed. Wesmin was there and very upset. Blamed the Americans (us) for leaving her. Says my kids are safe. Of course I wish we hadn't left but she gave us all clear coherent instructions yesterday morning on what she wanted us to do and we did what she said including Wesmin.
He says Heather was put in an ambulance then transferred to another hospital and he does not know which one.
[A staff member] got us a list of hospitals in Petionville which I sent Ryan F. He said that he visited three and she was not there. They are now with Molier, still looking.
Please pray! Tim any advice? Should you contact the embassy?
Call me if you need to.

6:58 AM [Staff member]
I am so sorry. She was sick but wasn't sure if it was just her normal sick with something else or what. I don't think it's cholera. Whoever finds her, see if they will test for typhoid fever. She was feverish with chills and aches and was complaining of lung/chest stuff but says she always has breathing issues there. She tossed and turned and moaned most of the night and was not feeling well since Monday so I would think if it were cholera it would have taken her out before then. We also traveled all day without stopping for bathroom breaks so again, just didn't seem like it was cholera.  It could be a flu or Haiti funk on top of her other medical stuff.

Heather Found?

Then things seemed to take a positive turn. 

At 7:46 AM, a person named "Claude Murielle" sent an email to Heather's two main email addresses with the subject line, "Found Heather." 

Greetings friends,
My wife and I write you this morning and apologize we couldn't get a letter to you sooner. You see we are not so well adjusted to Internet nor do we keep proper Internet at our house.

We were celebrating our 34 anniversary yesterday and found a near death patient at a gas station trying to buy drinks. She was in coherent and looked like she was going to pass out. We had just exited the hotel OASIS. I am a doctor and my wife is a nurse. We took her to the hospital in Petionville but they would not take her saying she seemed to have Cholera. They transferred her to another hospital who wanted to get her to US. No one would accept her due to clear other issues.

We apologize but we had to go through her purse and belongings to try and find out who she is.

She is a lovely young lady and we can't tell you how blessed we are to have her under our care. I can't believe how many children she has. Please tell the children their mom is in good hands.

We need to know where to return her. She tested positive for cholera and malaria. Also, she has very bad lungs. She is on an IV and we administer antibiotics

We are not kidnappers. We live in Boston and know how Haiti hospitals are. She looked near death and we felt strongly we had to do something.

We adopted a little girl 18 years ago. My wife can't have children. Adoption was what lead us to Christ.

We feel strongly that this young lady we care for has a huge calling. We love looking at all the pictures online. She seems to be a real life angel. We are so happy God bring her to us. We spent most the night crying over her blogging.

We would love to donate and help your organization once we get her better

We need an address to drop her off please.

Again sorry we use her phones and purse.

Dr. CM

There was much rejoicing on the part of the staff at this turn of events. 

Four minutes later, "Claude Murielle" sent another email: 

We will check Internet tonight but there was a Haitian man we called that tried to steal her. We could tell he was lying so we did not release her to him. We knew she would die if someone didn't get her help. So we apologize if this man was good but he seemed like he was lying. We are Haitian born and we know our Haitian brothers very well. 

Of course, everyone interpreted this to mean Wesmin.

One of the staff members immediately emailed this to the thread:

Whoever talks to Wesmin, Please let Him know we are so thankful he went back to check on her. She didn't even want him to. She told him to go back to Club and clear it out in case there was cholera there. Please let him know over and over that no one thinks this is his fault and none of us knew it was this bad. She was more achy sick and i had been in the bathroom more than she had that night so we weren't really sure she had cholera but we kept checking symptoms online to what she had and trying to see if it was close. She was (in her own words) irritable which is a sign but the aches and chest/ breathing was different. She just wanted some juice in the morning and to rest. I would have gotten a ride to the airport or stayed if we thought it was this bad. I feel terrible and wish we would have known. Again, so thankful Wesmin went back to check on her.

Wow. So glad that couple found her. The malaria would make sense now with the extra symptoms.....

Praying for her. I'm glad she was able to be with it enough to share abut herself. Helps us to know she is conscious and still with it.

I just want to apologize to everyone for leaving her. I just really didn't know she was that sick.

In a direct reply to "Dr Claude Murielle," another staff member responded this:
Praise God!!!! We have been worried sick. Is she in the hospital or with you now?
Numbers to call:
Ryan [Number redacted]
[Name redacted] [Number redacted]
[Name redacted] [Number redacted]
[Name redacted] [Number redacted]
[Name redacted] [Number redacted]
Molier [Number redacted]
Thank you for you care!!!! Please respond so we can find her. Thank you sooooo much!
"Claude Murielle" wrote back,
Alrighty so I don't understand why I call all those numbers. That is so many numbers. This is very strange to me. Does she have a husband I can talk too? I did not see one in all her pictures. Who is [name redacted]? I need to talk to someone related. she is with us in our home as a guest. You say you need to find her? How did she become lost in the first place?
Maybe my email was not so clear.
Also, we accidentally answered an email and call. We don't know how to use these phones.
I need to talk to someone related to her. What about husband or kids?
When she wakes I will find out what this email means with all these numbers.

The staff member responded, 
I am sorry I was unclear. I am [name redacted]. I am in America. The numbers I gave are ones of staff and missionaries for our organization. Giving Hope Rescue Mission.
They have been looking for her all night in Port au Prince because she was no longer in the hotel. The hotel front desk told the missionaries she was taken to the hospital but they did not know which one. The President of our organization [name redacted] can contact you or her pastor [name redacted]. Heather is unmarried.
We are so grateful for your care.
Thank you,

The Embassy

Meanwhile, Ryan and company had driven over to the US Embassy after failing to find Heather all night. Ryan and Nick went inside the embassy, where they were not permitted to use their phones. Ryan was given a sheet of paper and was asked to write a report of the incident. He did so. 

In the meantime, Moliere was waiting outside in the car with Laura when his phone rang. It was one of the Americans, and he handed the phone to Laura. Laura was told about the email that had come through, so she went inside the embassy to inform Nick and Ryan that Heather had been found. 

However, the embassy wanted proof that this was true. Did they have a phone number or address of where she was? No, they didn't. Without that, they couldn't close the case.

The emails continue

8:29 AM [Missionary] 
I have contacted Moliere, who handed the phone to Laura Brown.  I let her know that Heather was found, safe, on the mend from what we know, and in good hands. She went in to try and get Ryan and Nick, so we could stave off any added drama with the Embassy.  

Laura just called saying the Embassy needed confirmation that she's ok - a phone number/address of where she is at.  Which we don't have.  Laura is giving the Embassy my number to get the contact info.  I'll just be honest of what we've heard and the situation.  Pray for God's lead and for no unnecessary drama with embassy action.  

Anna, let me know if you get any contact info for this couple.  I could forward these emails to the embassy - the two from Dr.CM.  

Let us meditate on the ONE who was right there to get Heather at that gas station at the very point of need - he brought earthly ministers for her.  He will carry this whole process through!

8:39 AM [Staff member]
I would suggest that it might be wise to keep in contact with the embassy on this until we hear directly from heather or someone sees her in person and confirms the situation. I believe that God is active in this and is directing you all on the ground with his spirit and discernment. Bless you guys!

9:13 AM [Missionary]
I just spoke with the embassy.  I've forwarded the first email from this doctor and they agree the do not wish to drop the case until we have Heather, have spoken with her or have an address/phone contact.  The embassy finds it strange that this man would not give a number or address, but it's very likely - and judging from their emails - they are being extra careful for her safety.   I trust the Lord will not allow our feet to stumble... and will lead us in the way we should go.  Standing on Psalm 32:8!   Thank you for your caution and insight!

I'm off email now, due to internet, so text of call if I am needed!

9:16 AM [Staff member]
I talked to [person] and [person]. She is calling the hotel Oasis and verifying this man Dr C was/is there.

9:18 AM [Claude Murielle]
I think I am understanding a little better. Still confused on some issues.  Your email makes clarity.

Haiti is dangerous. The fact the man I called yesterday tried to lie and steal her makes me wee nervous.

 Yes I need to speak to someone directly and yes I want to be the one to drop her off so I can see everything and meet the people who take her and exchange numbers. I want to keep in touch on her care. She needs antibiotics twice a day. She needs liquids every hour. Please add salt and a spoon of sugar to her water.

Where are the kids? Cholera is dangerous and you can die from This. It is a luck she is still alive. She needs an xray on her lungs. Please someone needs to make sure her kids don't have cholera. I don't understand how an American got Cholera.

I need an address and a phone number. I can have her at her house by this Evening at 8 pm. I need to know who the person is I drop her off at and need them to give me their number when they recognize her face. I want the number of these men you say.

Thank you personal assistant.

Dr. CM.

9:31 AM [Michelle S]
I just talked to heather. She is OK. Please tell them embassy she is OK. I didn't tell her the embassy was involved or she would have freaked. She said the Dr is going to drop her off.

9:45 AM [Staff member]
Just spoke with the Hotel Oasis. They confirmed that "Dr Claude Murielle" was not a guest and recommended embassy involvement.

They did go to Heather's room and spoke with Wesmin. They seemed suspicious of him, but I assured them that he is someone we trust.

In light of Michelle's email I don't think we should do more with the hotel.

9:46 AM [Michelle S]
Do not contact the hotel please

10:13 AM [Staff member]
Heather is awake talking to Michelle and I, still weak, making plans. Everything is getting worked out. Thank you for your continued prayers.

10:21 AM [Staff member]
Praise the Lord!

10:28 AM [Staff member]
Such good news. 

In the light of all this, the need for missionaries to have smart phones is very apparent.  I can't imagine how hard it was for those searching for hospitals to be doing so without GPS. Or not being able to keep up with the email conversations going on here. It's very easy to use Natcom or Digicel SIM cards in unlocked iPhones. If it is ok with everyone, Charity and I can create a post to collect iPhones so the missionaries will be better able to communicate with each other, offer updates and so forth. Of course we won't mention Heather's situation in the request but will mention how an hour and the right directions to hospitals could save lives in the future. 

Let me know if this would be ok.

2:35 PM [Staff member]
I have spoken to Heather several times. Everything is okay. Just resting back in Montrouis for now. She will be writing everyone later when she feels better. Thank you for your prayers. 

*end of thread*

Trip back to Montrouis

Once Michelle and another staff member had actually spoken with Heather on the phone and reassured themselves that she was awake and stable, they got word to the embassy that they could close the case and Ryan could go home. 

Moliere drove the group along Route Nacionale #1 back towards Montrouis when they came up behind a familiar green vehicle. 

"That looks like Wesmin's car," Ryan thought. They pulled up beside it to pass them. 

Sure enough, it was. There were Heather and Wesmin in the car together, talking and laughing. Heather appeared perfectly healthy.

The aftermath

Heather accused Ryan of being "totally inappropriate and acting out of line" for his actions in going to seek her in Port au Prince. There was absolutely no recognition of his heroic, self-sacrificing action. Given the light that he had at the time (and assuming that all of the available data was true), the choice NOT to go seek her would have been unconscionable.

My humble opinion on interpreting these events 

Looking back from the perspective of four years later, and knowing what I now know, this is what I think about the situation. These are only guesses, but they are the guesses I'm currently applying to make sense of the way things went down.

I think....

  • Heather made the whole thing up 
  • Heather was with Wesmin the whole time and was dictating to Wesmin what to do and not do (i.e. now stop answering Ryan's texts; now call Michelle S and tell her such-and-such, etc.)
  • Heather used a few "real" symptoms that her staff members had seen to make the whole thing believable that she had become so gravely ill so quickly.
  • "Claude Murielle" was an invention of Heather and Wesmin together (Heather thinking it up, and Wesmin writing it). They would have opened a gmail account and died laughing over the way they imagined it would go over when it came through. 
  • When things looked like they were getting gravely close to being found out (i.e. Americans at the embassy and calling the Oasis hotel), Heather had to call Michelle to "end" the whole joke.
Things that simply don't line up or make sense
  • Michelle's very first email: "I was informed that heather was taken to a hospital in port today, for what I am not sure.  Wesmins guess was cholera.  He just told me that she is on an iv and unconscious." 
  • This states some very clear facts: "Heather was taken to a hospital in port." There are a finite number of hospitals in port. "Wesmins guess was cholera." If she was admitted to a hospital, there would be no more "guessing" because she would have tested positive or negative. "He just told me that she is on an iv and unconscious." Therefore, Wesmin must have been at the hospital long enough for Heather to not only get admitted, but also get put on an IV and THEN lose consciousness. For Michelle's email to be true, Wesmin must have called her and known all these things.
  • Then the story changes, and no one seems to notice the discrepancy. Suddenly, Heather is found incoherently wandering around a gas station. She is fortuitously found by a compassionate person who just "happens" to have this insane combination of characteristics: 
  • A doctor
  • A Christian
  • A person who lives in Boston, but who is also a Haitian, and is also presently in Haiti
  • Someone who has adopted a child
  • Someone who has medical training, near-fluent English, and a home in the US, yet doesn't know how to operate a smartphone

Other discrepancies from the doctor's email (read this as if Heather is the brains behind it, and suddenly, the whole thing falls apart):
  • This doctor ran into Heather who was "near death" despite being presumably upright and walking around at the gas station. People don't typically intervene on behalf of a complete stranger when they are merely "incoherent and look like they are going to pass out." 
  • Then he took her to the hospital in Petionville, and the hospital refused to admit her, but still managed to "transfer her" to another hospital that wanted to get her to US, but yet "no one would accept her." 
  • This doctor presumably follows Heather through all these transfers, and despite his medical credentials is unable to get her admitted anywhere, so he takes her to his OWN PERSONAL HOME (on his anniversary night, no less), where he puts her on IVs and antibiotics and she goes unconscious.
  • This doctor seemingly cares so very much about reuniting Heather with her family that he trespasses on her purse and phone, but he somehow manages to wait all night before attempting to contact anyone. 
  • Heather managed to let her cell phone battery die early in the morning despite spending the night at the premier hotel in Port where they have electricity. Yet as soon as the doctor rummages through her purse for the phone, it works perfectly for him to look up who she's connected to. 
  • Instead of making a phone call, the doctor chooses to write an email, because that's the most efficient way to get in touch with someone in an emergency, right? 
  • The doctor just "happens" to choose from among Heather's thousands of contacts the exact right two email addresses to write to, including Heather's OWN email address, which wouldn't make sense to anyone other than a person who knew that someone else read Heather's email. He manages to do this despite being so clueless about the phone's functionality that he "accidentally" answers a call and replies to an email and has to apologize for this.
  • The doctor feels the need to mention, "We are not kidnappers." This is so obviously "Heather's fingerprints" it's like a dead giveaway.

Things that make me feel sick inside over this situation
  • All the people who put themselves in danger and lost an entire night's sleep with no thanks or recognition 
  • The staff being made to feel horrible and guilty over leaving the country (something that could easily be manipulated later by a clever person into making people waste money and time on changing their ticket, simply because they felt guilty over the last time when they didn't do it) 
  • All the urgent requests for prayer over a situation that was FAKE.
Other observations
  • You can see here that no one believed that Heather had a husband at this point, contradicting what other people had seen in earlier visits to Haiti.
  • Notice that no one questioned the validity of (a) Heather being violently ill (b) Heather's whereabouts being unknown (c) the doctor's blatantly false email (d) Wesmin mysteriously knowing and then not knowing where she was. No one noticed the discrepancies. This is how good Heather was at hiding the fact that she was the one behind all the drama. In hindsight, it seems completely obvious, but in the thick of the situation, there was so much chaos that we simply accepted the data at face value without looking any deeper. 
  • Notice, too, how much dirt Heather threw onto Wesmin through this situation. I, for one, took it at face value at the time and felt that if this doctor had mistrusted Wesmin enough to refuse to release Heather to him when he came to pick her up, then Wesmin must be suspicious indeed. 
  • Observe Heather's incredible, blatant self-promotion in the doctor's email: "She is a lovely young lady and we can't tell you how blessed we are to have her under our care. I can't believe how many children she has. Please tell the children their mom is in good hands....We feel strongly that this young lady we care for has a huge calling. We love looking at all the pictures online. She seems to be a real life angel. We are so happy God bring her to us.  We spent most the night crying over her blogging....We would love to donate and help your organization once we get her better."
  • It's also worth pointing out that this whole situation was supposed to be confidential. Therefore, no one could reach out to the people outside the situation to get a reality check or a healthy dose of skepticism. Even if we had "disobeyed" and shared it, though, it's doubtful if other people's opinion would have made a big enough dent to get us to see the light. I know for myself, I was still very much "drinking the kool-aid" and was therefore largely impervious to outside perspective. For instance, my dad saw right through it (not this situation per se, but the whole Heather thing in general), but I couldn't accept his version of the story for a long, long time. Furthermore, the number of people I respected and trusted who were also believing the story was so high that it bolstered my confidence in a "Heather-favorable" interpretation. How could this many smart and informed people ALL be wrong when they all went through the situation together? Looking back, it is hard to believe how long Heather was able to play this game and how many variations of it she was able to pull off before people stopped believing her.

Well, congratulations if you made it through all that. 

What's incredible is that future events made this one seem mild and tame and forgettable by comparison. 


  1. Were you journaling at the time of all this taking place?

  2. None of this surprises me. What surprises me is that anyone believed anything she said in the first place. Also, Heather has several noticeable giveaways in her writing that make it obvious even to this day when she is the one writing an email, blog post, fake facebook profile, etc or pretending to be her new husband "Rocky Matranga." She is a scary person - that she would take delight in causing so much chaos in the lives of others while pretending to be a VICTIM at all times. I recommend you start tagging all of your posts "Heather Elyse", "Heather Elyse Savage", "Heather Matranga" and Heather Elyse Matranga - she had other last names I think as well - she's had 2 other husbands that I know of. By tagging posts people in the future who come in contact with her and need to discern the truth from the utter crap she spews can find this. I wish when we were dealing with her there had been more hints online at her mental instability. Amanda

  3. I met you two times and was shocked by how snowed Ryan and his wife were -- the bizarre behavior of everyone involved made me super afraid for you all. If you do some research on Sociopaths and other Personality Disorders it becomes VERY VERY clear that Heather (with all the last names) is incredibly mentally ill. The lying and insanity was insane. Tara Livesay

    1. I read all your posts from the last couple months but read them out of order, my comments sort of make it clear, but wanted to be sure to say - I think you are brave to go back and face all this pain by writing it out.


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