Henri Piette, foreground, talks to a reporter with Tulsa's Fox23 News on Oct. 12, 2017, as he walks to court. Piette, 62, is accused of abducting his stepdaughter in 1997 and forcing her to live in captivity as his wife for nearly 20 years.
Crystal Bonvillian, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
WAGONER COUNTY, Okla.
An Oklahoma man was arrested in Mexico earlier this month amid allegations that he “married” his 11-year-old stepdaughter in a van, abducted her and kept her captive as his “wife” for nearly 20 years.
Henri Michele Piette, 62, is charged with first-degree rape, two counts of lewd molestation and child abuse by injury, according to Oklahoma court records. He was taken into custody Oct. 5 in Mexico, where he lived with the victim and their children for years after her alleged abduction.
The Oklahoman reported that the now 33-year-old victim, Rosalynn Michelle McGinnis, is speaking out about her ordeal since returning to the United States. Court records show that McGinnis escaped captivity last year with eight of her nine children and found her way to a U.S. Embassy in Mexico, where she received help.
Her oldest child, a boy, had already run away from the remote village in which they lived. McGinnis told People magazine in August that she has since been reunited with her son.
Piette was still at large and under investigation by federal investigators when McGinnis first detailed her ordeal and subsequent escape.
“I knew that if I didn’t get out of there, I’d either go insane or I would end up dying and leaving my kids with that man,” McGinnis told the magazine.
She alleged in her interview that she was raped, beaten, stabbed, choked and shot during her captivity.
Piette, who has since been returned to Wagoner County for prosecution, told Fox23 News in Tulsa last week that he’s innocent.
“Most of it are lies,” he told the news station as he shuffled into a courtroom for a hearing, surrounded by deputies. “Ninety-nine percent are lies. I’m telling the truth.”
He also denied raping McGinnis.
“I never raped any children. I made love to my wife,” Piette said. “We were married.”
McGinnis told investigators that Piette first raped her at the age of 11 at their home in Wagoner, the Oklahoman reported. He later “married” her in the back of a van, giving her a ring.
Piette’s son told FBI investigators in January that he performed the “ceremony” for his father. The son was 15 at the time.
McGinnis told People that her “marriage” to Piette took place the day before he legally married her mother.
McGinnis’ mother later left Piette because of abuse in the home, the Oklahoman said. She and her daughter were living at a woman’s shelter in Poteau, about 100 miles southeast of Wagoner, when Piette abducted the girl in January 1997 from her new school.
Piette introduced McGinnis to his children as their new mother, court records obtained by the newspaper showed. In the subsequent years, they moved frequently, living in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Montana and Idaho before moving on to Mexico.
“McGinnis stated that she was sexually assaulted multiple times a day almost every day while she was with Piette,” the court documents read.
Piette would return to Oklahoma occasionally and make McGinnis mail letters from there so authorities would believe she was still living somewhere in the state, she told investigators. He also changed everyone’s names often to stay hidden.
McGinnis told People that, at the age of 18, she was forced by Piette to get her name and photo taken off national missing persons’ lists.
“He parked three blocks down the road from the Phoenix Police Department, and he had three of my children,” she told the magazine. “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.”
McGinnis said she walked into the police station and told officers that she had run away from home at 12 because her parents were drug addicts and that “nice people” had taken her in and raised her. Police, with no evidence to the contrary, were forced to believe her.
She returned to Piette and her captivity, where she remained for another 13 years. In that time frame, she had another six children by her alleged abductor.