WATCH: Martine Moïse’s interview with Local 10 News

Haiti first lady discusses the attack that killed her husband and injured her

On a late August morning, the First Lady of Haiti Martine Moïse agreed to meet Local 10's Calvin Hughes at an undisclosed location in South Florida.

On a late August morning, the First Lady of Haiti Martine Moïse agreed to meet at an undisclosed location in South Florida.

The meeting came more than a month after men armed with military-style rifles burst through the bedroom door of the president’s private residence, killing President Jovenel Moïse and leaving the first lady severely injured.

“The bullet got rid of the elbow, so that doesn’t exist anymore,” Moïse said of her injuries.

The first lady said she was shot seven or eight times on July 7, and she has had four surgeries since. She suffered broken ribs and severe injuries to her right arm. Those injuries, led doctors to remove nerve tissue from her right leg so she could have use of her hand and fingers. She says her hand will have a permanent curve.

It was just hours after her husband was assassinated that she was placed on an emergency flight to be treated at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

“I passed a week, a whole week without sleeping, without eating, only drinking water,” Moïse said. A nurse finally convinced her to eat.

“And I did and while I’m eating I said, ‘What if he was alive? What he would want me to do right now? To keep falling down that hole or to start getting better?’ And I realized he always want me to be happy.”

She began to improve, she said, thanks to memories.

“And those help me to be where I am today,” Moïse said. “And I think that my healing process is him.”

Moïse found strength in their memories, but she said it was her children who made her fight.

“I was dying after the week,” Moïse said. “I feel like dying because that’s what I wanted — to die. And when I look in their eyes too, and I saw them dying with me and I didn’t want that. And I start getting better and they get better too. Because I am the one that has to help them continue living without their father and it’s not that easy for them.”

Moïse is living a life far different than the one she had imagined, with her husband of a quarter-century.

“He’s the type of person that spoiled you over time,” Moïse said. “And that is what I miss the most. The small things.”

The two had just celebrated their 25th anniversary on January 4th.

“That is the hardest part when I see it,” Moïse said. “When I take the year and I think January to July. We were having fun because the 25th anniversary. June 26th was his birthday and some days after 7th of July he was about to die.”

Moïse said the two, even while working, were always together.

“We always hold hands when we were working,” Moïse said. “And always talk about something, there’s always a joke. He loved saying jokes. There’s always a joke that he had to say. That’s what I miss sometimes.”

Moïse said her heart is broken over the loss of her husband.

“There’s nothing that can be done to repair that heart, but even though the heart is working, the mind is still strong,” Moïse said.

President Jovenel Moïse was in the final months of his presidential term when Local 10′s Calvin Hughes visited in May. The president visited the northern part of the country, where he was from and where he remained popular.

During the visit, he showcased projects, such as new roadways, he had started and hoped to finish. In his final interview with Calvin Hughes, Moïse said he had spent the last four years fighting government corruption. He had hoped that fight in addition to changing the constitution and adding electricity around the country would be his legacy.

That legacy was cut short barely two months later.

The first lady said the two woke up to the sound of gunfire.

“The sound of gunshots. They [were] kind of far away,” Moïse said. “But they were approaching there, they became closer and closer and closer. [It] was the first round of gunshots that woke us up.”

Moïse said she thought an attack on their private residence was impossible.

“No one could do that to a president in power,” Moïse said. “Until he died, I didn’t realize that he died after he died. Because for me, help was coming. Because there’s a bunch of security around the house with us so we cannot be under attack.”

Moïse says she remembers 30 to 45 minutes of gunshots, piercing the outside of their private residence, shattering windows. With her own safety in jeopardy, she thought about her two children who were in the house.

“I went to the kids’ room because I know that they were panicking,” Moïse said. “I didn’t want them to come to us, so I went to them.”

After making sure they were safe and telling them to keep quiet, the first lady went back to her bedroom where the president was.

“And after I went off because I didn’t want him to stay alone, to be alone,” Moïse said.

As bullets were shot, glass was shattering and concrete was flying. She asked the president if he had called for help.

“He said, ‘Yes, I called security. They are on their way.’ And I said, ‘Okay.’”

Moïse said at this point, she felt safe knowing he had called at least two top security officials — Dimitri Herard and Jean Laguel Civil.

“They were part of the security team and he said, that they said, they were coming and we waited,” Moïse said.

The two never arrived and are now behind bars, accused of being a part of the assassination plot.

With no one stopping the assassins, they were inside the house with the bedroom door, unlocked.

“So they just opened the door,” Moïse said.

Within minutes Haiti’s first family was living its worst fear.

But it’s a danger Jovenel and Martine Moïse had faced at least a few times before, assassination attempts on his life. The first lady said their motorcade was attacked once, but it was unsuccessful.

July 7 was different. The assassins would carry out their plot. First, they shot the first lady and then they held the president at gunpoint. Moïse estimates 12 to 15 men were in the room, but she says she was “pretty far from life” after being shot.

“I was losing blood,” Moïse said. “Blood was coming from my arms, my mouth so it was kind of blurry for me.”

She described how she let her husband know she was alive after being shot.

“When he saw me, they shot me, I saw in his face, that he also is dying and I kind of raise my head and my hand and say hello, to let him know that, that I [was] still alive,” Moïse said. “I saw that relief in his face. That kind of the last expression that I saw on his face.”

Some of the assassins began searching the bedroom for a document. Until this day, Moïse still doesn’t know what they were looking for.

“I keep asking and asking and asking. Nobody knows. Nobody knows. What they were saying, ‘This is not it. This is not it. That’s it. And that’s what I think they were searching for. I don’t know what it is,” Moïse said.

She says after the gunmen found what they were looking, it should have been mission accomplished.

“It wasn’t the case. They came for two things to find what they were searching for. And to kill the president,” Moïse said.

Hours after the assassination, images began surfacing on the internet along with rumors that the president had been tortured. Moïse said that’s not true.

“The person that killed him was [right next] to him and he shot him from head to toe,” Moïse said. “So it was a gun that’s supposed to be used in long shot that was very close.”

After the assassins left, Moïse managed to get close to her husband despite her injuries a feat she said wasn’t easy.

“At that time in my head, the president was still alive,” Moïse said.

It wasn’t until she got closer, that she realized he was dead.

“It’s over,” Moïse said. “Because in my head, I said, ‘OK, OK, let’s go to the hospital. I’m still alive and you too and let’s go we can survive this but…,” Moïse said.

The first lady said a piece of her died with her husband.

“He was the part that I have missing in me and I was the part that he has missing. So together, we are the whole thing,” Moïse said.

“That’s what I lost July 7th. That is that part of me that I lost and I have to be the whole to find that part.”

Just a day after the assassination, arrests began. Dozens of arrests were made including more than two dozen Colombian nationals and three Haitian-Americans.

But the mastermind, according to investigators, is 63-year-old Christian Emmanuel Sanon. It’s alleged that the Florida doctor used a Doral-based security firm to recruit some of the accused gunmen.

Moïse said she had never heard his name before investigators identified him. She told Local 10 she doesn’t believe he is the mastermind only “part of the game.”

“There’s someone else higher that we don’t know yet,” Moïse said.

She has hope those responsible will be found.

“I know that FBI is working on the case also,” Moïse said adding she hopes the FBI can find those who were financing the plot in order to find the true mastermind.

In late July, the FBI raided a Weston home possibly tied to the assassination., Then on September 14th, a Haitian prosecutor asked a judge to charge prime minister Ariel Henry in the president’s death and bar him from leaving the country.

Prosecutors say two calls were made between Henry and suspect Joseph Badio after 4 a.m. July 7. Prosecutors saying Badio was near Moïse’s home at the time.

“He had a lot of enemies because he wanted Haiti to be democratic,” Moïse said in late August. “He wanted to fight corruption to the bone and you know, in Haiti, there’s a lot of powerful people that are involved in corruption. So he has a lot of enemies.”

The first lady did not want to elaborate on who she believes could be responsible, citing the ongoing investigation.

“I want to to ask for justice, and justice it is to find the people and they can hold them accountable for what they did to the president in power, or else, any president in power in the world probably won’t feel safe,” Moïse said.

She said she doesn’t want revenge.

“The first week, I was upset. I was angry. I wanted every one of them that did that to die,” Moïse said. “But after that, what will I have? Nothing. What I really want is already gone that won’t bring him back.”

Now, she hopes his legacy will live on in his dreams for Haiti including structural progress.

“So the other people to come, the other president after him will build on that,” Moïse said. “So one day in 20 years, 30 years, 50 years, you will have another country. So I wanted that to continue. To continue fighting corruption, to continue building roads, to continue have work on the country so that people can work and have money, to continue fighting the terrorists.”

Those terrorists Moïse is referring to are the gangs around the island nation.

Moïse said finding who is responsible for his death, will allow her husband to rest in peace.

“For him to say that, ‘I give my life for my country and it’s not in vain,’ because if he died and it’s one death more what’s the point of him dying?” Moïse said. “The country will stay the same, but if they find the people that did that, I think for the whole Haitian people, they will feel relief, they will feel some peace. Because the assassin of their father, they found it.”

As Moïse continues to recover from her injuries, she is trying to help Haiti from afar. Weeks after the assassination, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattled the southern portion of the country. Thousands were killed and more were injured. The city of Les Cayes was hit hardest.

“I was devastated,” Moïse said. “Because in what we are right now, we couldn’t have an earthquake.”

She said she wanted to be in Haiti, but her doctor advised against it. Instead, she has been fielding calls from those who want to help, directing them to those on the ground who can distribute things like water, food and clothes.

As she supports the Haitian people, she hopes they continue to support her.

An article in the New York Times quoted the first lady as saying she would run for president. She denied that, saying right now she was focusing on her health and her children.

“I just told [the reporter] too that I won’t let the vision and the mission of my husband die. I won’t.”

The first lady said after she has recovered, she will return home to Haiti.

“How long can I stay in the U.S.? How long? What other place that I have? Home is home. Home may be hell, but it’s home.”


About the Authors:

Five-time Emmy Award-winning newscaster Calvin Hughes anchors WPLG-Local 10's 4, 5, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts.