(NewsNation) — A Louisiana woman says the man she’d accused of raping her was given full custody of her daughter and a judge reportedly ordered her to pay the man child support.
Now, the officials she initially went to for help are issuing an apology for the way her case was handled.
The public apology was issued this week, a little over six years after the initial complaint.
Crysta Abelseth says she met John Barnes, the man who allegedly raped her, at a bar in Louisiana on Dec. 15, 2005. She was only 16, and he was 30.
“When my daughter was 5 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,” Abelseth told WBRZ News in Baton Rouge.
Today, her daughter is 16, and a DNA test proves that Barnes is the father, according to court records obtained by WBRZ.
“Back when I filed the charges (of rape against Barnes), I was told that it would be handled with care and that they would take the proper steps,” Abelseth said during an appearance Wednesday night on NewsNation’s “Banfield.”
However, Abelseth claims that she still can’t get any answers from the legal system about where her case stands.
“I gave them witness phone numbers and everything they asked me for. No one has contacted me. I’ve made multiple phone calls to the detectives. I’ve sent emails asking for the status of the case. No response,” Abelseth said.
Stacie Triche, who is Abelseth’s advocate and founder of the nonprofit SAVLIV35 Foundation, believes that politics are at play with the judge’s decision.
“You have birth certificates. You have DNA evidence. All the facts are there, so this mother should have never had to go through this mud that she’s going through for the past 10 years with this legal battle back and fourth, because he should have never been given any rights to the child at all,” Triche said.
Abelseth also alleges that she lost partial custody because she gave her 16-year-old daughter a cellphone.
“Crysta did not give her 15-year-old another cellphone. It was an allegation that was made. An ex parte was filed, and Crysta lost custody. She wasn’t able to defend herself,” Tiche said.
Abelseth said that she’s only able to visit her daughter during supervised visitations every other weekend. “He’s blocked my number. He will not let me speak to her, and that’s been a few weeks.”
“What is so beyond shocking about this case is we’re dealing with an amazing mother who’s never been in trouble with the law. She’s never had a drug problem. Yet, custody is being taken away from her. However, he has a criminal past,” Triche said.
WBRZ-TV reporter Chris Nakamoto, one of the investigative reporters who broke the story, said that he reached out to Judge Jeffrey Cashe, who made the custody decision. He was told by an employee in the judge’s office that judicial canons prevent the judge from talking about it.
Jarrett Ambeau, an expert in forensic DNA and family law, told NewsNation’s “Banfield” that he knows Cashe to be a reasonable person but that he believes the case to be completely “confounding.”
“A police report was filed seven years ago in 2015 alleging this improper action. And for seven years, a law enforcement entity literally allowed it to sit on a shelf somewhere and (it) appears nothing was done,” Nakamoto said.
Since WBRZ’s investigation, the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office (TPSO) has issued a public apology regarding the handling of the case.
A Thursday, June 16 news release from the sheriff’s office stated, “In tracing this case back to the time the initial complaint was filed on July 1, 2015, it was discovered that the report never made it through the proper channels within the department to be assigned for investigation. Therefore, our department absolutely dropped the ball, and we simply must own our mistake. This is a mistake, however, that simply has never been a problem before or since, and we must make sure to keep it that way.”
Sheriff Daniel Edwards went on to state: “The Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office has reviewed and identified the breakdown in operations relating to the initial complaint filed by the complainant. Since that time, enhancements to department procedures have been implemented and measures put in place to ensure reports from the public never go overlooked or mishandled. Especially those cases alleging criminal acts against our youth. The Sheriff’s Office is dedicated to protecting children and will do everything possible to protect the youth of our community from abuse and neglect.”
The sheriff’s office added that Abelseth did not follow up on the initial complaint until April of this year and that when TPSO learned of the complaint, a team of investigators were assigned to the case.
However, due to the complex nature of its findings, the case was turned over to the district attorney’s office.