Heads-up: This post contains mentions of child abuse. Reader discretion is advised.
If you, or someone you know is suffering from abuse, please do not hesitate to contact one of the following helplines:
UK: The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) 0808 801 0331 ) www.napac.org.uk
USA and Canada: National Child Abuse Hotline (1-800) 4-A-Child or (1-800) 422-4453 https://www.childhelp.org/
International directory: https://www.childhelplineinternational.org/child-helplines/child-helpline-network/
In 1997 a 12-year-old girl named Rosalynn McGinnis was kidnapped outside of her school in Poteau, Oklahoma, by a man in a grey van.
Rosalynn loved animals and had dreams of becoming a veterinarian or a violin teacher, but her life would be stolen away from her that day in 1997 by her own stepfather, an abusive drunken predator named Henri Piette.
Piette married Rosalynn’s mother and started abusing Rosalynn when she was just 10 years old. He moved them away from their friends and family and isolated them before eventually kidnapping his own stepdaughter from outside of her school and taking her to a hotel in Tulsa where he convinced her that she would be locked up in an asylum for allowing him to abuse her if she tried to alert the authorities. He then made her change her physical appearance, including dying her hair darker and having her don a pair of fake glasses, so she wouldn’t resemble her picture printed on the missing posters that would soon begin to circulate. He also informed her that she would be going by a new name, an alias that would help them avoid detection.
Rosalynn’s first pregnancy would end in miscarriage, just months after the kidnapping.
Piette dragged her from hotel to hotel for the first several months until they finally crossed the border to Mexico. She would go on to suffer almost 2 decades of abuse, rapes and beatings in Piette’s control and would give birth to 9 of his children.
Her captor would spend all their income on drugs and alcohol, leaving Rosalynn desperate to feed herself and her children, often resorting to asking strangers for money. She would be struck and beaten with objects, and on occasion even shot at by Piette for any minor indiscretion. The violence would come so often that Rosalynn would admit that she got used to it. Her body documented the abuse she suffered, she wore her wounds, old and new, from head to toe.
When she turned 18, Piette drove his victim to the local police station in Arizona, where they resided at the time, and gave her two hours to convince them that she had voluntarily ran away from home in the late nineties so that her name would be taken off the National Missing Peoples database. He threatened her with her children, telling her that if she wasn’t back in two hours that she would never see them again. Feeling desperate and hopeless, McGinnis did as she was instructed.
Hope and liberation came in the form of a couple who lived in one of the small villages Rosalynn and the children stayed in for a period. The couple, an American woman named Lisa and her partner, a British man named Ian, helped Rosalynn out at the supermarket when she was unable to pay for her groceries. She was with her children at the time and the couple took pity on her as she couldn’t feed her dependents or herself. They befriended her and went to visit her at the place she shared with Piette and the kids. They later noticed that Piette would always make sure that he was well-fed, but couldn’t care less about his “wife” or children.
Lisa would go on to describe the desperation in the kids. They were all underweight, starved of attention and emotion and desperate to speak to anyone other than their father, whom they said did not love them. They slept on dirty mats in over-crowded conditions and the couple could not help but feel as if they needed to help and that things weren’t right.
They couldn’t help but notice that Piette, 62 at the time, was much older than his “wife”, Rosalynn, who was in her early thirties. One night, in a drunken stupor, Piette let his real age slip. Lisa did the math and realized that Rosalynn’s oldest child was in his teens, around 16 years old at the time, meaning she would have been a minor when she was pregnant. They had no idea that Rosalynn had been abused by Piette, her own stepfather, since she was just 10 years old, and had suffered miscarriages long before the birth of her first child- but they knew the situation wasn’t right. They knew they had to do something but didn’t know what.
Piette moved Rosalynn and the kids again and she lost the regular contact she had with the American and British couple. Then, by chance, she met Ian in the street in 2016, and before she knew it, Rosalynn was escaping to the couple’s home with 8 of her children bundled into a taxi. Her eldest child had escaped the abusive household some months earlier and would be reunited with his mother and siblings.
The FBI launched an investigation into Piette and caught a break when the pensioner attempted to apply for a U.S passport at the U.S embassy in Mexico City. They monitored him and eventually tracked him down in Dallas, Texas. He was charged with Kidnapping and traveling with a minor to engage in a sexual act and was sentenced to life in prison on February 20th, 2020.