Florence Beaulieu is dead, and her parents live in a state of tormented disbelief.
Beaulieu spent 15 years in an abusive marriage, one marked by isolation, loneliness, and occasionally, restraining orders, say those who knew her best. To her colleagues at Beth Israel Deaconess-Milton, where she worked as a nurse’s assistant, she was warm and dependable. At home, she was often terrified, fears she often shared with her parents, Emmanuel and Sylvia Saint Louis.
“My daughter was a great person,” her father said last week. “The man she was with was not a good person. He beat her. He treated her like an animal.”
Beaulieu threw her husband out in March and filed for divorce in April. She also obtained from authorities a restraining order to keep him from contacting or visiting her. But Jean-Michel Beaulieu would not leave his wife alone.
The order expired on May 14, and she declined to extend it. Florence Beaulieu was found dead two days later, discovered by her children.
Jean-Michel Beaulieu was arrested last week in Vermont. The location raised questions of whether he was attempting to flee the country. Authorities charged him with three counts of violating a restraining order, and are in the process of returning him to Massachusetts, according to Plymouth County prosecutor Bridget Norton Middleton.
She said Florence Beaulieu's death is being investigated as a homicide, though no one has yet been charged.
In Beaulieu's application for a restraining order, she described some of the treatment she said she suffered at the hands of her husband: “On many occasions I had to call the police as a result of physical abuse. I have had to go to the hospital after he beat me. I have had to go through daily verbal abuse.”
Their life together had taken them from Massachusetts to Florida and New Jersey, and back home again. With each move, Beaulieu's parents say, she was increasingly isolated from her network of family and friends. Their final break was precipitated, in part, by Jean-Michel Beaulieu's decision that the family would move again, this time to Las Vegas.
“He didn’t want her to be close to anybody,” Emmanuel Saint Louis said. “That’s why they kept moving.”
Her parents, who live in Florida, came to Boston last week to try to arrange to take custody of their grandchildren. They were often distant, helpless witnesses to their daughter’s battering. As late as the week she died, they say, they were pleading with her to find a way out.
“She told me, ‘I went to court, and everything will be okay now,’ ’’ Sylvia Saint Louis said softly. They did not believe everything was going to be okay, and they were right.
Emmanuel and Sylvia Saint Louis say their daughter had turned to a trusted minister who advised her to drop the restraining order, to do everything in her power to reunite the family. They also say that the family had financial problems, and that Florence Beaulieu’s last known meeting with her husband centered on a discussion of money.
The family’s lawyer, Ernst Guerrier, theorizes that in the Haitian community, outdated and discredited advice about abusive relationships remains common — such as advice to work on, not end — a bad marriage, even a violent one.
“The cultural problem we have in our community is that people who aren’t trained to give advice in these situations are often the people who are turned to,” he said. “Here you have a young woman who was crying for help, but there were cultural barriers and knowledge barriers.”
For now, Florence Beaulieu’s parents have been granted temporary custody of their four grandchildren.
They are people of deep faith, who believe that, in some grim way, justice will ultimately be served. “I’m glad she is not suffering anymore,” her father said. “He is going to pay the price for everything he did.”