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Posted Tuesday, January 1, 2008
'Possessed' Haitian accused in fracas



Palm Beach Post Staff Writers

DELRAY BEACH — A man his sister described as "possessed" hit his girlfriend in the head with an iron and bit her so that he could "release the demons that were inside of her," according to a police report. When his 80-year-old mother tried to stop the attack, he bit off her fingertip and started pulling his own teeth out, the report said.

Police kicked down a bedroom door Sunday morning to find Oswald Varemond, 44, straddling his girlfriend, Yolette Lagrandeur, 33, a Haitian recording artist and AIDS activist. Both were covered in blood.

An officer drew his gun and ordered Varemond to put his hands in the air, and officers tried to stun him three times with a Taser, only to have the device malfunction each time.

Varemond looked at police with a "blank stare" and walked toward them. He charged at officers, the report said, and one of them kicked him in the chest. Varemond grabbed one officer's leg and the men fell down the stairs.

Varemond, a Haitian national, continued to pray in Creole and chanted, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus." An officer struck him with a baton until he was handcuffed.

Varemond had come home to his residence in the 500 block of Northwest 46th Avenue on Sunday morning and asked his girlfriend and his mother, Anne Marie Saget, to pray with him, the report said.

When they started to pray, Lagrandeur noticed Varemond "change," she told police. He locked the doors to keep anyone from leaving. He jumped on Lagrandeur and started biting her on her back and beating her head with the iron.

When Saget jumped on her son's back to stop the attack about 5:30 a.m., he bit a finger on her left hand. Saget was treated at a hospital, but doctors could not reattach her fingertip.

At one point, he started to pull out his bottom teeth.

Varemond was taken to Delray Medical Center, where he was so violent that officers had to handcuff and shackle him to a hospital bed.

He was taken to the Palm Beach County Jail on charges of attempted homicide, battery, false imprisonment and resisting arrest with violence. No bail was set.

He was not brought out for his first appearance in court Monday.

On the list of defendants, his name was noted with the word "caution," indicating security officers should be particularly careful around him. In his absence, a mental health evaluation was ordered, and he was expected to appear in court within 72 hours.

Police had been called to the residence early Saturday because Varemond was reportedly seeing "evil spirits" inside his home, the report said.

However, he did not meet the requirements for involuntary admission to a mental health facility under the Baker Act, police said. He told officers he would spend the night at a friend's house.

About 4:40 a.m. Saturday, a caller named Oswald phoned police to report a fight in the house and said he thought his family was doing voodoo on him, police records show. The caller made mention of people inside the house with a knife.

It is commonly believed in the Haitian community that people who exhibit signs of mental illness are possessed by evil spirits.

Varemond's sister, Henriette Saget, 46, said her brother, who works in musical production, began showing signs of "mental problems" Christmas Day.

She said she believes someone put a voodoo curse on her family because her sister began exhibiting the same mental problems in May and is now hospitalized.

"My brother said he felt some bad spirits and was seeing hallucinations and dead spirits," Saget said.

She said her family had been going to church nonstop and praying for Varemond.

But on Sunday, he accused them of trying to poison his food. He began breaking things in the house. Then he attacked his girlfriend and mother.

"He was so possessed by the evil spirit," Saget said. "His eyes were red. He was screaming."

John Lariviere, who has lived next to the home for eight years, said he heard high-pitched yelling and "organized" chants - possibly prayers in Creole - coming from people in the yard about 4 a.m. Saturday. All the lights were on.

"The screaming sounded similar to what I would consider an organized chant that might be a prayer in another language," said Lariviere, 43.

Saget said her family is Christian and that the chants neighbors heard were Christian prayers.

The house where the attack happened is on a block where three-quarters of the residents come from the Caribbean, many from Haiti, Lariviere said.

When Lariviere put out Halloween decorations, someone tore them down three times. A neighbor told Lariviere the perpetrators may have associated the jack-o-lantern, ghosts and witches with elements of voodoo.

"It's a very strange place to be, sometimes," he said.

Varemond is listed as the treasurer of the Yolette Lagrandeur Foundation, owned by his girlfriend, a Haitian recording artist, records show.

On the foundations's Web site, Lagrandeur writes that she started it in an effort to promote awareness of HIV and AIDS.

She writes that she is an AIDS patient herself and that her foundation's purpose is to educate and assist those dealing with the epidemic.

Several Haitian blogs and message boards reported that Lagrandeur testified in front of members of the island nation's government about alleged abuse she suffered at the hands of a now-dead priest, affiliated with the government, who she claimed infected her with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

She was lobbying the government to pass a law that would punish individuals who know they have HIV and pass it on to others.

Copyright 2008 The Palm Beach Post. Reprinted from The Palm Beach Post of Tuesday, January 1, 2007.

RELATED TEXTS: Accused notorious polygamist Haitian priest with advanced AIDS, Devalcin, died / Haitian priest infected me with AIDS

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