An Oklahoma man kidnapped his stepdaughter, repeatedly raped and abused her, fathered nine children with her and held her captive under the threat of violence for close to two decades authorities say.
Henri Michelle Piette, 63, was found guilty last Thursday by a federal jury of kidnapping and traveling with intent to engage in a sexual act with a juvenile following a seven-day trial that detailed the unbelievable and tragic conditions that Rosalynn McGinnis endured for close to two decades.
Now 34, McGinnis escaped along with eight of her nine children, in 2016 after she befriended a couple that she met in a grocery store in Mexico.
“The victim endured two decades of horrific abuse by the defendant. Her courage led her to escape and rescue her children, and allowed investigators and prosecutors to seek justice on her behalf,” U.S. Attorney Brian J. Kuester of the Eastern District of Oklahoma said in a press release. “Ultimately her courage ended the defendant’s reign of terror.”
In 1997 Piette kidnapped McGinnis when she was 11 or 12 years old from her hometown of Poteau. Oklahoma. McGinnis’ mother had been in a relationship with Piette, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Shortly after kidnapping McGinnis, Piette “took her to a van” and “married” her, according to The Associated Press.
McGinnis was forced to alter her appearance and use various aliases during her captivity. In 2000, at the age of 15, she gave birth to the first of Piette’s children authorities said. McGinnis would go on to give birth to 8 more children all fathered by Piette.
When she turned 18, Piette made McGinnis go to a police station in Arizona, where they were living at the time, and tell officers that she ran away from home so she would be removed from the national missing persons registry, she told People magazine in an August 2017 interview. Her name had been added to the list after her mother reported her missing.
“He parked three blocks down the road from the Phoenix Police Department and he had three of my children,” she said. “He told me what to tell them. He said that if I didn’t come back within two hours, I would never see my children again.”
Piette was able to avoid capture or detection for so long by using aliases and moving dozens of times in both the United States and Mexico. McGinnis was using the alias “Stephanie” when she met Ian and Lisa at a supermarket located in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Lisa told KSHB news that she and her husband were in line at the grocery store when they noticed that McGinnis, who was with her children, did not have enough money to pay for her groceries. Ian and Lisa, who have not had their last names disclosed due to fears for their safety, told the outlet that they struck up a conversation with McGinnis and eventually became friends with her and her children.
During a visit, Piette let it slip that he was 62-years-old, McGinnis was 32 at the time and her oldest child was a teenager, that’s when Ian and Lisa realized that perhaps this woman was in trouble and needed help.
After a night of drinking, Piette passed out. That’s when McGinnis took her chance. She grabbed 8 of her children and fled to Ian and Lisa’s home. McGinnis’ oldest child had already escaped. With some help from the U.S. Embassy and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, McGinnis was eventually reunited with her family.
“I’m just so happy that he is put away where he can’t hurt anyone anymore,” McGinnis told KSHB in an interview last week.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office told NBC News that McGinnis and her children, who range in ages from 4 to 19, still “struggle emotionally” from the trauma they endured. McGinnis now makes her home in Missouri with her children.
Piette maintains his innocence saying that “ninety-nine percent of them are lies. I’m telling the truth.” The U.S. Attorney Generals Office said Piette will be sentenced at a later date.
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