A Ponchatoula woman who was raped at the age of 16 and impregnated by a man twice her age has lost custody of the child to her alleged rapist and has been ordered to pay child support.
As reported by WBRZ, Crysta Abelseth's life changed forever in 2005 when she accepted a ride home from John Barnes, now 46, when her friend decided to leave dinner early.
"Instead of bringing me home, he brought me to his house. Once inside, he raped me on his leaving room couch," Abelseth, now 32, told the outlet. Abelseth did not know Barnes before that night but weeks later she learned that she was pregnant – a byproduct of the rape.
Barnes Pursued Custody of Child After Learning He was the Father
Abelseth said she let friends and family believe the pregnancy was a result of a relationship she had at the time. "Everyone assumed it [the pregnancy] was from a boyfriend, and I let them believe that," Abelseth recalled.
Abelseth delivered a healthy baby girl, and everything was fine until John Barnes learned sometime in 2011 that he was the father of the child. "When my daughter was five years old, he found out about her, and once he found out about her, he pursued custody and wanted to take her away from me," Abelseth said. "They granted him 50/50 custody despite the fact that [the child] was caused by rape."
A DNA test is part of court documents that proves with 99.97% accuracy, John Barnes is the child's father. Barnes was 30 years old and Abelseth 16 at the time of conception. The act was illegal at the time, even if it were consensual, which Abelseth maintains it never was.
Barnes had Ties with Ponchatoula Police
in July 2015, Abelseth pressed criminal charges against Barnes. A report she filed with the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office for rape details everything that was done to her.
However, seven years have passed but Barnes has not yet been charged with any crimes in relation to the allegations filed by Abelseth. The Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office says an investigation is still open. "It was never assigned to a detective, and nothing was ever investigated," according to Abelseth.
A search of John Barnes shows he owns Gumbeaux Digital Branding, a web company in Ponchatoula. Barnes' website shows Ponchatoula Police as a client.
Barnes Awarded Custody of Child
despite filing a sexual assault report against Barnes in 2015 and fiercely fighting to have her child in her care, Abelseth's custody rights over the 16-year-old were revoked last month over an allegation by Barnes that she bought a cellphone for their daughter, WBRZ reported.
The ruling by Judge Jeffrey Cashe also forced Abelseth to pay child support to his alleged rapist, in what her advocates have branded an outrageous miscarriage of justice.
Abelseth said for years she's tried to go about this the right way through the courts. But having her daughter taken away weeks ago over allegations she gave her a cell phone left her with a lack of confidence that she'll ever get a fair shake with justice impossible to find for the past 16 years.
"He's well connected," Abelseth said. "He's threatened me multiple times, saying he has connections in the justice system, so I better be careful and he can take her away anytime he wants to. I didn't believe him until it happened."