EXCLUSIVE: A Louisiana man accused of raping a woman then winning temporary custody of their child vehemently denied the allegations — and said his sole concern is protecting their 15-year-old daughter.
Crysta Abelseth told Fox News Digital that John Barnes, then 30, forced himself on her in 2005 when she was 16 after a night out with friends at a bar in Hammond, Louisiana— and the sexual assault produced a child.
"It's a lie. She was in a bar with a fake ID, telling everyone she was a college student," said Barnes, who owns tech company Gumbeaux Digital Branding. "I had no idea she was 16, and I didn’t rape her. That is absolutely, unequivocally false."
Five years after the sexual encounter that he said was consensual, he learned from Abelseth, now 32, that he might have fathered a child. A DNA test confirmed paternity, and he was awarded joint custody.
More than a decade of child support and custody litigation ensued with both sides repeatedly dragging each other back to court. The battle reached a shocking milestone in February when Abelseth accused Barnes of drugging and raping their teen daughter.
Weeks later, Abelseth said that Tangipahoa Parish Family Judge Jeffrey Cache, of the 21st Judicial District Court, handed temporary sole custody to Barnes – all because she gave the teen a cellphone.
The mom went on a media blitz blasting the jurist for the decision — and calling Barnes a violent rapist, who is so politically "well-connected" that he was able to corrupt the legal system and commit the ultimate injustice.
"All I have been trying to do is protect my daughter," Barnes told Fox News Digital. "There is no way in hell I have influenced seven very high-level organizations that are geared toward protecting children’s rights and safety into sweeping her claims of rape and child abuse under the rug."
The judge on the case unsealed a trove of family court papers Wednesday stretching back to 2011 in response to Abelseth’s stunning allegations — and a more nuanced version of the couple’s messy custody battle has emerged.
Paternity and child support
The petition for paternity was initiated by Abelseth in 2011, the judge wrote in a filing. A suit was filed demanding DNA samples from Barnes and James Threeton, who was incarcerated at the time.
Threeton had signed the child’s birth certificate, and the young girl initially had his last name and called him "daddy," according to the records.
After the test revealed that Barnes was the father, both parents voluntarily agreed to joint custody in October 2011, without intervention from the court, and that neither would pay child support, the filings show.
"Ms. Byrd-Abelseth requested Mr. Barnes be named as the father of the minor child and consistently consented to shared custody since the onset of the case," wrote Cache in a court document.
But Barnes grew frustrated that Abelseth continued to encourage a relationship between ex-con Threeton and the child, taking the girl to see him in prison, he told Fox News Digital.
"She was undermining my relationship with my daughter, teaching my daughter that she has two dads," Barnes said. A judge later ruled that the child could have no contact with Threeton.
Another point of contention, Barnes said, was a "revolving door" of men at Abelseth’s home. He repeatedly asked that Abelseth be held in contempt for allowing various men to sleep over when their daughter was present – in violation of their custody agreement, court papers show.
"Her mother goes through men like a revolving door," he said. "Men were coming in and out of my child’s life. She had three husbands in six years and it wasn’t healthy."
In June 2012, Abelseth sued for child support and a judge ruled that Barnes would pay her $450 a month.
Barnes sued for sole custody in May 2015, accusing Abelseth of continuing to foster a relationship between her daughter and Threeton and having men stay overnight at the home when the daughter was present. He also asked for a fresh accounting of their child support obligations.
Rape probe: sheriff ‘dropped the ball’
A month later, on July 1, 2015, Abelseth filed a police report for the first time, alleging that Barnes had raped her, according to a document obtained by WBRZ.
Abelseth told Fox News that Barnes had raped her on his couch, and she awoke the next morning nude on his bathroom floor.
Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards released a statement Friday saying that it had turned over the case to the Office of District Attorney Scott Perrilloux, of the 21st Judicial District in Louisiana. Perrilloux didn’t return requests for comment.
Edwards said Abelseth’s complaint was not properly investigated and "our department absolutely dropped the ball."
Abelseth did not follow up on her criminal complaint until April 2022, and a team of investigators was then assigned, but given "the complex nature of their findings, the case was turned over to the district attorney’s office, which will decide whether to pursue charges," the statement says.
Her advocate, Stacie Triche, who runs the Save Liv35 Foundation, stepped in eight months ago after Abelseth reached out for help. Triche called the ordeal a "horror story" and said "If anybody else would have raped a 16-year-old child, that person would have been in prison."
Mom says ordered to pay alleged rapist child support
In 2016, Cache, who had recently been assigned to the case, ordered Abelseth to pay $117 a month in child support retroactive to 2015.
Abelseth told Fox News Digital that the judge issued the child support decision based on her potential earnings, reasoning that she had a master’s degree and should be able to pull in $80,000 a year.
She was making about $35,000 working part-time as a waitress at Pontchatoula Seafood and Steak, according to filings.
Barnes was earning about $102,000 running his tech company and working for an oil company.
"She was earning money under the table and trying to avoid paying child support, which is why the judge made that ruling," said Barnes, who added that she refused to pay for 18 months. The state then began garnishing her wages.
The secret cellphone: ‘sexually explicit TikTok posts’
In December 2020, Barnes again moved for expanded custody, accusing Abelseth of allowing their daughter, then 14, to "make out" with her 17-year-old boyfriend in her room unsupervised.
He also accused Abelseth of providing their daughter with a second cellphone with unfettered access to social media when she already had one with parental controls that he had given her.
A few weeks later, Abelseth contacted the Department of Child and Family Services to report that Barnes had allegedly pulled their child’s hair and ear, and that the young girl was afraid to go to his house. She moved to limit Barnes’ custody.
Cache presided over a hearing in May 2021, which centered on the secret cellphone the daughter had allegedly been using to upload "various sexually explicit TikTok posts," according to court papers.
She was also sending "inappropriate photos" via the phone — including a picture of herself with a boy in a bed and sexually explicit messages, the papers say.
The judge denied each parent’s request for expanded custody but ordered them to obtain the phone’s passcode and review its contents.
Five months later, according to the judge, Abelseth still had not turned over the child’s phone and claimed it had been wiped and stolen.
Cache held her in contempt for letting the child have a third phone, banned the child from having another device and ordered both parents to have logins for the young girl's social media accounts. He also ordered Abelseth to pay Barne’s $500 in legal fees.
Barnes accused of raping daughter; loses custody
The allegations reached new and disturbing extremes February 25, 2022.
Abelseth filed for an emergency restraining order against Barnes in favor of herself and her daughter, which was automatically granted, alleging that he had "drugged and sexually assaulted [their child] two nights in a row" while in his home.
The daughter was taken to Children’s Hospital in New Orleans "where she was evaluated & the doctor confirmed that there is evidence of forced entry congruent with sexual assault," Abelseth wrote.
She continued in the handwritten petition for protection, "Criminal charges for sexual assault are pending blood work and testing results."
In the petition for the restraining order she recounted Barnes’ alleged sexual assault of her.
"My daughter was conceived as the product of the defendant (John P. Barnes) raping me (Crystal Abelseth) when I was a minor child of 16 years of age," she wrote. "I suspect drugs were used by him to sedate me as I was unable to move while he raped me. Now, it is alleged that he has committed the same heinous crime on our 15 year old daughter."
This is the first time that Cache says Abelseth mentioned that Barnes had raped her since the custody proceedings began in 2011.
Barnes said he was devastated by the accusations. "I did not see or speak to my daughter for a month," he recalled.
A hearing officer ruled on March 18 that "all criminal charges are not being accepted — medical evidence does not support allegations in petition."
Abelseth, who was home with the flu, voluntarily dismissed the restraining order at the hearing through her attorney, according to court documents.
Barnes gets temporary custody
Three days later, Barnes filed for temporary sole custody, alleging that Abelseth gave their daughter a phone in violation of the court order, made up false accusations of sexual abuse to gain custody and had permitted their child to have sex with an 18-year-old.
He wrote in a petition that Abelseth told the child to "make any allegations against Barnes so that he would be arrested."
That same day, Cache granted Barnes’ request for sole custody pending the outcome of an emergency hearing. In the meantime, the jurist gave Abelseth supervised visits on alternating Saturdays.
Abelseth then filed a motion to terminate Barnes' parental rights based on the child allegedly being "conceived through the commission of a felony rape." A hearing is being held July 15.
The court proceedings have taken a toll on Abelseth and her family, she said. She recently remarried and has a 17-month-old boy.
"It’s been a strain, definitely, on my family now because this consumes my life," she said. "I’m shook to my core…it has taken a turn that’s unfathomable."
Barnes said he adores his daughter and only wants what is best for her and that means having rules and boundaries. He called her "very intelligent" and said she wants to become a nurse and, although she’s still in high school, plans to take college courses next year.
"She has a very promising future," he told Fox News Digital. "I want to preserve that and keep her on the right track like any loving parent would want for their child."