An Oklahoma man who kidnapped his stepdaughter when she was 12 and took her to Mexico, where he fathered nine children with her before she was able to escape, has been sentenced to life in federal prison.
Henri Piette, 65, was sentenced to life on Thursday for charges of kidnapping and to a further 360 months, 30 days, for travelling with the intent to engage in sexual acts with a juvenile.
He was also ordered to pay a $50,000 fine and $50,067 in restitution to his victim, Rosalynn McGinnis.
Names of the victims of sexual crimes are generally withheld but McGinnis, who Piette says he married, went public with her story shortly before his arrest.
Piette was arrested in Mexico in September 2017, a year after his stepdaughter-turned-wife McGinnis escaped and contacted police. In 1997, he abducted her from her school in Oklahoma in retaliation against her mother, who he was in a relationship with at the time.
He took her to Mexico where McGinnis, now 33, said he forced her to ‘marry’ him. The pair had nine children and lived together in a filthy tent, undetected by US authorities for years.
In 2016, McGinnis with the help of a mystery couple fled with eight of the nine kids and sought help from a US embassy.
Piette was convicted of kidnapping in 2019. He denies wrongdoing.
McGinnis claims that Piette’s abuse began when she was 10 and he still lived in their family home in Wagoner.
According to an affidavit filed in a federal court, he raped her for the first time when she was 10.
‘According to R. Doe (McGinnis), she remembered when she was around 11 years old, (Piette) took her to a van and married her,’ the affidavit says. ‘She added Piette gave her a ring and (Piette’s) son, Toby Piette, officiated the marriage.’
Prosecutors argued that over the course of the next two decades, Piette raped her repeatedly and inflicted physical and emotional abuse on her.
When he was eventually arrested, Piette said their sex had been consensual.
‘Most of it are lies,’ he told Fox23 News.
‘Ninety-nine per cent are lies. I’m telling the truth.
‘I never raped any children. I made love to my wife. We were married’.
In an interview on The Dr Oz. Show that aired in November 2019, McGinnis recalled the moment she was saved.
‘We were in the grocery store, we were in front of them, and we had a bunch of kids, of course, and it was me and Henri Piette.
‘The age difference and all the children. Actually, we were short on the bill to pay for the groceries and they paid it for us,’ she said.
‘They asked where we lived. It started like that. Henri was the type that always kept people away. But they knew something wasn’t right. So, they decided to do something about it,’ she said.
Piette forced them to move, but the couple found them.
‘We moved and they found out where we were and she’s like I know there’s something wrong. If you can ever getaway, I’ll help you,’ McGinnis recalls the woman telling her.
Any kind of abuse that you can think of, he did to me,’ she said.
McGinnis says she was being abused by Piette for at least a year before he kidnapped her.
‘As a young child, you don’t really realize what’s going on. As an adult now, I look back and then I can see exactly how that he was grooming me the whole time. But as a child, you don’t know those things, you don’t know.’
She also revealed that she took the children without telling them they were fleeing and described the ways Piette would abuse them too.
‘They didn’t know. I kept the truth from them until I escaped from Mexico. They were really shocked. They’ve been through, especially my older children.
‘The reason I didn’t tell them, of course, was because what I knew inside was how much it’s damaged me. I didn’t want them to grow up knowing that.
‘He would tell them they’re animals. He would treat them like animals. That the only reason that they’re alive is that your mother’s here. Otherwise, if she wasn’t that I’d kill all of you. He would hit them and then I would step in and it would just be horrible.
‘You don’t know what’s happening, you don’t realize it,’ she said.
In 1997, her mother who has never spoken publicly about the case broke up with Piette because he had been beating her.
He retaliated by snatching Rosalynn from school and going on the run. McGinnis said that before taking her to Mexico, they traveled through the US.
She claims he introduced her to his children as their ‘new mother’.
In Mexico, she said she was subjected to daily sexual assault or rape and first became pregnant at 15.
She claims they lived under the radar and that no one in Mexico suspected him of wrongdoing until she confided in a woman who lived near their tent in 2016.
That woman then found a missing person’s poster from 1997 with Rosalynn’s name on it.
In June 2016, she fled their tent with eight of the nine children she had with Piette and used a payphone in Oaxaca City to contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
They were then put in touch with the US embassy to be taken back to the US.
McGinnis now lives in Missouri with her family.