MUSKOGEE, Okla. (KFSM) — A federal jury on Thursday (June 6) convicted an Oklahoma man of kidnapping his step-daughter in 1997 and holding her hostage for the next 20 years while he raped and abused her.
Henri Michele Piette, 63, was found guilty in U.S. District Court of kidnapping and travel with intent to engage in a sexual act with a juvenile.
“The victim endured two decades of horrific abuse by the defendant. Her courage led her to escape and rescue her children and allowed investigators and prosecutors to seek justice on her behalf. Ultimately her courage ended the defendant’s reign of terror,” said U.S. attorney Brian J. Kuester.
“I know this verdict cannot heal the countless wounds inflicted by the defendant. It should prevent him from ever inflicting more.”
Rosalynn Michelle McGinnis, now in her 30s, managed to escape from Piette in 2016 after being held captive by him for two decades in Mexico, according to KFOR.
5NEWS is only identifying McGinnis, a sexual assault survivor because she has spoken publicly about her case.
McGinnis’ mother was in a relationship with Piette in the 1990s when he began sexually abusing McGinnis while she lived in Wagoner County.
She told authorities that when she was 11, Piette took her to a van to marry her, having his oldest son, who was 15 at the time, perform the ceremony.
Piette’s son confirmed to investigators that his father had asked him to perform the ceremony. He said the “ceremony” consisted of him asking if Piette and McGinnis took each other in marriage.
Despite two attempts to escape, Piette was able to find the family. He kidnapped McGinnis from Poteau, then moved her throughout Oklahoma and eventually to Mexico, according to KFOR.
McGinnis said Piette beat and sexually assaulted her almost daily for years. He fathered eight children with her that span.
McGinnis told People magazine that she took eight of her nine children to the U.S. Embassy and obtained passports so they could enter the United States.
Once she made it to the United States, she immediately started meeting with federal officials and provided them with statements on what happened.
Federal officials interviewed Piette’s older children who confirmed they had witnessed him sexually abuse McGinnis.
Authorities were finally able to track Piette down in September 2017 when he visited the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City attempted to obtain a U.S. Passport.
“The FBI Oklahoma City Division, and the special agents who investigated this crime, hope that the guilty verdict delivered against Henri Piette will bring some sense of closure to those he inflicted immeasurable mental and physical abuse upon for over 20 years,” said Steven D’Antuono, acting special agent in charge of the FBI’s Oklahoma City Division.
“By bringing Mr. Piette to justice, the victims of his heinous acts can now begin the process of healing. The FBI is honored to have been a part of this long-term investigation alongside our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners.”
Piette faces up to live in federal prison. A sentencing hearing hasn’t been set.