A Louisiana woman says a judge gave her accused rapist custody of their daughter – and has forced her to pay him child support, according to a new report
Crysta Abelseth, 32, told WBRZ that John Barnes raped her in 2005 when she was 16 after he offered to give her a ride home during a night out with friends in Hammond, Louisiana.
It was the first time she had met Barnes, who is now 46.
"Instead of bringing me home, he brought me to his house," Abelseth said of Barnes, then 30. He allegedly forced himself on her. The encounter, even if consensual, was illegal given her age, she said.
Abelseth was highly intoxicated that night and awoke nude the next day on Barnes’ bathroom floor, according to a police report she filed years later.
The young woman fell pregnant and later delivered a healthy baby girl — but five years later Barnes learned of the child and that he may be the father. A DNA test confirmed his paternity, according to court records obtained by WBRZ.
"Once he found out about her, he pursued custody and wanted to take her away from me," Abelseth told the local TV station. "They granted him 50/50 custody despite the fact that the child was caused by rape."
In 2015, Abelseth filed a police report detailing the alleged rape with the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office after she learned that the alleged crime was still within the statute of limitations.
The investigation went nowhere — although the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office told Fox News Digital that the case remains open and assigned to Detective Lindell Bridges.
Barnes owns Gumbeaux Digital Branding, a web company that counts Ponchatoula Police as a client, according to the TV station.
"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."
Earlier this year, Louisiana Judge Jeffrey Cashe granted Barnes full custody after the father alleged that Abelseth gave the teen a cellphone, which she denied. The judge, of the 21st Judicial District Court in Louisiana, also ordered Abelseth to pay her alleged abuser child support.
Abelseth’s advocate Stacie Triche, founder of the nonprofit Save Liv35 Foundation, got involved in the case about 8 months ago.
"She's been forced to pay her perpetrator," Triche told Fox News Digital. "To give up custody of the child that was a product of rape. It is absolutely one of the most shocking cases we’ve seen."
The local district attorney, Scott Perrilloux, told WBRZ that his office is reviewing the case. Perrilloux, Barnes and Cashe didn’t immediately return requests for comment.