A “well-connected” Louisiana businessman who raped a teen girl 17 years ago has been granted full custody of the victim’s child, in addition to the right to collect child support.
This stunning story out of the small town of Ponchatoula began in 2005 when, after a night out with friends, victim Crysta Abelseth, then 16, accepted a ride home from local business owner John Barnes, then 30.
“Instead of bringing me home, he brought me to his house. Once inside, he raped me on his living room couch,” she recalled to Baton Rouge station WBRZ.
Unbeknownst to Barnes, the rape left Abelseth pregnant. She decided to keep the baby girl, whom she claimed was from a boyfriend, and raise it. Six years later in 2011, Barnes learned that he had 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. They granted him 50/50 custody despite the fact that [the child] was caused by rape,” Abelseth said.
It’s not clear when the 50/50 custody was granted.
What’s known is that Abelseth waited until 2015 to report her rape.
“I thought if I didn’t do it the next day, there was nothing I could do about it. I went to a trauma counselor, and he said, ‘No, you have 30 years after you turn 18,” she said.
But despite the rape still being within the statute of limitations, “nothing was ever investigated,” she claimed. She doesn’t believe this is a coincidence.
“A search of John Barnes shows he owns Gumbeaux Digital Branding, a web company in Ponchatoula. Barnes’ website shows Ponchatoula Police as a client,” according to WBRZ.
“He’s well connected. 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,” Abelseth said.
“It” happened this year when local Judge Jeffrey Cashe granted Barnes full custody after he, Barnes, alleged that Abelseth had given her now-teenage daughter a cell phone. The judge also ordered Abelseth to pay her rapist child support.
This is judge Jeffrey Cashe-he decided to give custody of Crysta Abelseth’s teen daughter to Abelseth’s rapist, John Barnes, and ordered the victim to pay him child support.
Contact him here:https://t.co/SHxngklFIA
— Indigo Null (@LostInIndigo) June 14, 2022
“She’s been forced to pay her perpetrator, forced to pay her rapist child support and legal fees and give up custody of the child that’s a product of the rape. It makes no sense,” Stacie Triche, a non-profit worker who’s been helping Abelseth through this ordeal, said to WBRZ.
Indeed, even a lawyer with the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault was left stunned and appalled.
“It seems pretty straightforward that not only did a crime take place, but as a result of the crime, this person should not have custody of the child,” attorney Sean Cassidy said.
How this story will end remains unclear.
“Barnes admitted over the phone Abelseth’s daughter is his, but referred all questions to his lawyer, who never got back to the WBRZ Investigative Unit. The Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office continues to say the case is still open. WBRZ reached out to Judge Jeffrey Cashe, who made the custody decision. An employee in his office said judicial canons prevent the judge from talking about it,” according to ABRZ.
A hearing is reportedly scheduled for next month to revoke Barnes’ parental rights.
The good news is that after WBRZ’s story went viral, several local officials decided to start taking action.
Rafael Goyeneche, a watchdog with the Metropolitan Crime Commission, said he’s “requested outside law enforcement to come in and look into it,” according to WBRZ.
“I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve never seen anything like this. This is confounding and deeply disturbing. 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,” he said.
Local District Attorney Scott Perrilloux has likewise confirmed to WBRZ that he’s now reviewing the case personally. “Perrilloux said his office had not received anything on it” prior, according to the station.
Meanwhile, social media sleuths have declared war on both Barnes and Cashe:
John Barnes raped this survivor when she was a child; she was 16 years old at the time and he was 30!
A police force is one of Barnes’ client of his web company “Digital Branding”… pic.twitter.com/tsDPFjuqiv
— Tapestry. (@tapestryserves) June 14, 2022
This #CrookedJudge just took a 16 year old from her 32 yo mother and gave full custody to the man who raped mom when she was 16 purportedly because mom gave the 16 yo girl a cellphone
Judge Jeffrey Charles Cashe has a daughter just 3 years older
Twitter, you know what to do pic.twitter.com/1JkX9oxohk
— Bill (@GOPPolitboro) June 15, 2022
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