In a case described as a “reign of terror” by a U.S. attorney, a rape suspect accused of holding his stepdaughter captive for 19 years after “marrying” her in Oklahoma when she was 11 was found guilty of federal crimes.
Henri Michelle Piette, 63, was found guilty by a federal jury of kidnapping and travel with intent to engage in a sexual act with a juvenile, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Muskogee said June 10.
The verdict was reached Thursday following a seven-day trial.
Piette was arrested in Mexico in 2017 and returned to Oklahoma, where he was also facing state charges, including first-degree rape, in Wagoner County.
The alleged rape victim, Rosalynn Michelle McGinnis, was able to escape with her children last year in Mexico and “made her way to the U.S. Embassy,” investigators reported in court affidavits, according to a previous story in The Oklahoman.
McGinnis spoke out about her ordeal after returning to the United States. She told People magazine, “I want the world to know. I want him to be stopped and I want justice to be served.”
She told the magazine she was raped, beaten with baseball bats, stabbed, choked unconscious and shot during her time with Piette. “I cried every night,” she said.
Evidence presented at the federal trial showed Piette in 1997 kidnapped the victim from Poteau, where she had been living with her mother, who had been in a relationship with him, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release.
“Over the course of the nearly 20 years that followed, the defendant repeatedly raped and inflicted physical and emotional abuse upon the victim. The victim gave birth to nine children, the first being born in 2000 when she was 15 years old.
“In July 2016, the victim was able to escape with her children to the United States Consular General Offices in Nogales, Mexico. The Federal Bureau of Investigation was notified and the investigation began.
“During the trial, witnesses testified the defendant had moved with the victim and children dozens of times within the United States and Mexico. He used numerous aliases and forced the victim to use aliases and dye her hair black and wear glasses to change her appearance. He controlled the victim by violence, threats of violence, and sexual abuse against her and her children,” the release said.
“The victim endured two decades of horrific abuse by the defendant,” U.S. Attorney Brian J. Kuester said in a statement.
“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.
“I know this verdict cannot heal the countless wounds inflicted by the defendant. It should prevent him from ever inflicting more.”
Piette faces up to life in prison for the kidnapping indictment and up to 10 years for travel with intent to engage in a sexual act with a juvenile.
Sentencing by U.S. District Judge Ronald A. White will be scheduled following the completion of a presentence report.
Piette was also charged in Wagoner County District Court with first-degree rape, lewd molestation and child abuse. He is accused of first raping McGinnis when she was 11 or 12 at her home in Wagoner.
Wagoner County authorities were planning to move ahead with prosecuting the state charges following the federal case, according to court records.
“We are very pleased at the verdict,” said District Attorney Jack Thorp, whose district includes Wagoner County.
“It is our intention to proceed with the criminal justice process and press forward seeking justice for the crimes Mr. Piette allegedly committed within District 27.”