OKLAHOMA CITY — An Oklahoma man who was convicted last June of kidnapping his stepdaughter, holding her captive for 19 years and fathering her nine children has been sentenced to life in federal prison.
Henri Michelle Piette, 65, was sentenced Thursday to life in prison for kidnapping and 360 months, or 30 years, for traveling with the intent to engage in sexual acts with a juvenile. He was also ordered to pay a $50,000 fine and $50,067 in restitution to his victim, Rosalynn Michelle McGinnis.
The names of victims of sexual crimes are usually withheld, but McGinnis went public about her ordeal shortly before Piette’s October 2017 arrest in Mexico.
Piette claimed he had married McGinnis, whom he kidnapped from her Porteau, Oklahoma, middle school in 1997, when she was 12. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, Piette had been in a relationship with McGinnis’ mother.
Piette’s sexual abuse of McGinnis began when she was about 11, while he still lived with her family in Wagoner, according to an affidavit filed in federal court. In a 2018 interview with 41 Action News in Kansas City, Missouri, McGinnis said she was around 10 when he raped her for the first time.
“According to R. Doe (McGinnis), she remembered when she was around 11 years old, (Piette) took her to a van and married her,” the affidavit says. “She added Piette gave her a ring and (Piette’s) son, Toby Piette, officiated the marriage.”
The then-preteen and her family later moved to a home in Porteau, and McGinnis was soon kidnapped.
Prosecutors argued at trial that Piette spent the next two decades raping her repeatedly and abusing her physically and emotionally. The affidavit states that McGinnis told investigators she was “introduced to (Piette’s) children as their new mother.”
Though they traveled to numerous places in the U.S. and Mexico, Piette would occasionally return with McGinnis to Oklahoma and force her to mail letters there so her family would believe she remained close to home, the court document says.
Watch Rosalynn McGinnis talk about her ordeal below, courtesy of 41 Action News in Kansas City, Missouri, where she was born and now lives with her family.
“The victim gave birth to nine children, the first being born in 2000 when she was 15 years old,” a news release from U.S. Attorney Brian J. Kuester said. “In July 2016, the victim was able to escape with her children to the United States Consular General Offices in Nogales, Mexico.”
The FBI was notified of McGinnis’ allegations, and a federal investigation began.
“The investigation revealed, and the victim testified at trial, that the defendant had moved her and their children dozens of times within the United States and Mexico,” Kuester’s news release said. “The defendant used numerous aliases and forced the victim to use aliases, dye her hair and wear glasses to change her appearance. He controlled the victim by extreme violence, threats of violence, and sexual abuse against her and her children.”
In a 2017 interview with People magazine, McGinnis described being raped, beaten with baseball bats, stabbed, choked and shot during her captivity.
“I knew that if I didn’t get out of there, I’d either go insane or I would end up dying and leaving my kids with that man,” McGinnis told the magazine.
Piette was still at large in Mexico when McGinnis spoke to People. He was later captured and returned to Wagoner County to face prosecution.
Once he was back in the U.S., Piette told Fox23 News in Tulsa he was innocent.
“Most of it are lies,” he told the news station as he shuffled into a courtroom for a hearing, surrounded by deputies. “Ninety-nine percent are lies. I’m telling the truth.”
Piette denied raping McGinnis.
“I never raped any children. I made love to my wife,” Piette said. “We were married.”
Read the affidavit outlining Piette’s crimes below.
Kuester said it is fitting that Piette’s sentence, like the “horrific memories” he left McGinnis and her children with, will last a lifetime.
“Life in prison is a sentence the law reserves for the most serious offenders – offenders like Henri Michelle Piette,” the federal prosecutor said. “For 20 years he inflicted extreme physical and emotional abuse on the victim and her children. For 20 years she feared for her and her children’s lives.”
McGinnis told 41 Action News that she felt great relief following Piette’s sentencing. She expressed similar sentiments last year following his guilty verdict.
“I’m just so happy that he is put away where he can’t hurt anyone anymore,” McGinnis told the news station.
The station reported that Oklahoma state officials took Piette into custody last week following the verdict so he can face state charges filed in Wagoner County.