Outside review requested following WBRZ report showing rape victim ordered to pay abuser child support
PONCHATOULA - A corruption watchdog told WBRZ Tuesday he's requesting an outside law enforcement entity to come in and review the case where a rape victim was ordered to pay her perpetrator child support.
Less than 24 hours after the WBRZ Investigative Unit aired the story, District Attorney Scott Perrilloux also told WBRZ he is reviewing the case. Prior to today, DA Scott Perrilloux said his office had not received anything on it.
Monday night, we introduced you to Crysta Abelseth. It's one of the most egregious cases victims advocates tell the WBRZ Investigative Unit they have ever seen, after a judge awarded full custody to a woman's abuser and forced her to pay child support.
"I've been doing this a long time," Rafael Goyeneche with the Metropolitan Crime Commission said. "I've never seen anything like this. This is confounding and deeply disturbing."
Goyeneche was so disturbed by the investigation, he requested outside law enforcement to come in and look into it.
"That's why I'm making a referral to another agency today, for them to take a fresh look at it to see if it rises to the level of an actionable felony, and the agency that I would refer it to would have the authority to seek an arrest warrant and arrest any culpable individuals in this case," Goyeneche said.
Abelseth maintains she was raped when she was 16 and came away from that encounter pregnant. It happened after she left a bar with John Barnes, who was 30-years old. She said Barnes agreed to take her home but brought her to his house instead, where she said the rape occurred.
Abelseth had a healthy baby girl, and for six years things were fine until John Barnes learned sometime in 2011 that he might have a daughter.
"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; Abelseth maintains it never was.
In 2015, she filed a police report with the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office. It went no where.
"If a child is born from a felony rape, the law mandates that the abuser shall not have visitation or contact with that child..much less custody," Sean Cassidy with the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault said.
Abelseth said this year, Judge Jeffrey Cashe granted Barnes full custody and ordered her to pay child support. She said that decision was made after it was alleged she gave her daughter a cell phone. She claims she never gave her one.
Judge Jeffrey Cashe
The court records pertaining to the case are under seal. When we reached an employee at the judge's office, a woman said he could not speak about the case, citing his judicial canons.
"If the judge is concerned about judicial canons, he needs to make sure he hasn't violated any judicial canons by not doing his due diligence to make sure no felony offense occurred for him to take under consideration," Goyeneche said.
WBRZ reached out to the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office for an update Tuesday. No one got back to us.
WBRZ also reached out to the State Department of Children and Family Services to see if there was anything it could do to intervene. A spokeswoman said, "this case does not involve DCFS."
A hearing is scheduled for July 15 on the custody issue in Tangipahoa Parish.
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