Louisiana judge REVERSES decision to grant full custody of teenage girl, 16, to her father

A Louisiana judge has temporarily reversed his decision to grant a man full custody of his teenage daughter after the girl’s mother came forward to allege that the girl was conceived from him raping her when she was just a teenager.

Over the past week, Crysta Abelseth has claimed that John Barnes raped her after they met at a bar in 2005 – but was granted full custody of their now teenage daughter in March. Barnes, though, has adamantly denied the claims he raped her.

Abelseth, 32, has since had to pay Barnes child support.

But on Tuesday, Judge Jeffrey Cashe on Tuesday reversed his decision to grant Barnes, 46, full custody of the 16-year-old girl.

It is unclear what led the judge to reverse his decision, but Abelseth suggested it is the result of ongoing media attention to the case.

She said in an interview with WBRZ that the ruling on Tuesday is the first bit of fairness she’s seen in the court system in nearly a decade, telling reporter Chris Nakamoto: ‘When I sat down with you, I thought maybe a few people would have watched it on the news and say “Ok, that’s sad,” and move on.

‘The fact that we’ve received so much attention, it’s pressed the issue to make these people do what they are supposed to.’

A trial to decide which parent gets full custody is now set for July 15, and Jarrett Ambeau, who is representing Abelseth pro bono, said they are building a case.

‘We’re going to present that case in full force to the judge on July 15, and I think it will get the right outcome,’ he said in an interview on News Nation.

In the meantime, the girl will be put in the custody of guardians, as agreed upon by both parents. They will then alternate custody on the weekends.

A Louisiana judge on Tuesday temporarily reversed his decision to grant a man full custody of his teenage daughter, after the girl’s mother Crysta Abelseth, second from right, publicly accused him of raping her when she was a teenager

It remains unclear what prompted the judge to reverse the decision granting John Barnes (left) full custody. He has denied the claims of rape

It remains unclear what prompted the judge to reverse the decision granting John Barnes (left) full custody. He has denied the claims of rape

Abelseth, now 32, has accused Barnes of raping her 17 years ago after she accepted a ride home from him in Ponchatoula, a town of 6,000 people, 50 miles north of New Orleans.

She was 16 at the time, and he was 30. The age of consent in Louisiana is 17, meaning that even if she consented the act would be considered statutory rape: a felony punishable, by up to 10 years in prison.

The married mother-of-five previously told DailyMail.com in an exclusive interview that she believes her attacker has avoided imprisonment, or even being charged, because of his status in the town as a contractor for the police. 

Judge Jeffrey Cashe initially ruled in favor of granting Barnes full custody in March

Judge Jeffrey Cashe initially ruled in favor of granting Barnes full custody in March

Ponchatoula police are among the clients of his graphic design company

‘He has openly threatened me, saying he is well connected in the justice system and in the courts,’ Abelseth told DailyMail.com.

Asked why he has escaped prosecution, Abelseth said the fault was ‘within the justice system’.

‘I think people can put two and two together,’ she added.

On February 25, Abelseth in court documents accused Barnes of sexually abusing their daughter.

‘Minor child contacted me (her mother) on February 23, 2022 with the suspicion that her father had drugged and sexually assaulted her two nights in a row,’ the court documents state.

Abelseth stated that the Children’s Hospital of New Orleans confirmed ‘evidence of forced entry congruent with sexual assault’.

In the papers, she states: ‘My daughter, minor child, was conceived as the product of the defendant raping me when I was a minor child of 16 years of age.

‘I suspect drugs were used by him to sedate me as I was unable to move while he raped me.

‘Now it is alleged that he has committed the same heinous crime on our 15-year-old daughter.’

On March 18, the allegations were dismissed by the court, which found that ‘medical evidence does not support allegations in petition’. 

Two days later, Abelseth also lost custody of her daughter, and has been forced to pay Barnes child support. 

She claims Barnes is also blocking their court-mandated daily phone calls.

The mom is said to have lost custody after giving her daughter a phone, which Barnes said the teenager was using to ‘sext’ her boyfriend and post sexually explicit TikToks.

Crysta Abelseth, now 32, claims that John Barnes, now 46, raped her in 2005 after she accepted a ride home

John Barnes, 46, runs a graphic design firm in their hometown

Abelseth (left) and Barnes (right) are now due back in court on July 15 when a trial will determine who gets full custody of the now 16-year-old girl

Crysta Abelseth is shown with the daughter she had with Barnes in 2005. Crysta claims she was 16 at the time – one year under the legal age of consent in Louisiana – when she was allegedly raped

Crysta Abelseth is shown with the daughter she had with Barnes in 2005. Crysta claims she was 16 at the time – one year under the legal age of consent in Louisiana – when she was allegedly raped

The saga began in 2005 when she went to the Pine Street bar, Ponchatoula Pub, with two of her friends, where the brother of one of her friends was hanging out. 

Barnes was friends with the brother, but Abelseth had never met him.

‘I did not know him,’ she said firmly.

The person who drove them to the bar later wanted to leave, and Barnes said he would drive Abelseth home instead. 

Her friends got lifts home with other people, leaving Abelseth and Barnes alone in his car.

LOUISIANA’S STATUTORY RAPE LAWS: ANYONE UNDER THE AGE OF 17 IS AUTOMATICALLY A VICTIM

Louisiana has statutory rape laws known as Carnal Knowledge of a Juvenile which dictate that anyone under the age of 17 is automatically a victim if they have sex with an adult, regardless of whether or not they physically consented to it. 

The crime is a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison and a fine of $5,000. 

Not knowing whether the victim is under 17 at the time of the crime is not a defense.

It’s unclear why Barnes was never charged after staking claim to the child, and after DNA proved he was the father. 

Abelseth said she was ‘highly intoxicated.’

‘John Barnes offered to take me home,’ Abelseth explained, in a later police report.

‘Instead of bringing me to my house, John Barnes brought me to his home.

‘He proceeded to rape me.’

Abelseth said she did not tell anyone – not her friends or parents – that she had been raped.

‘I felt people would shame me,’ she told DailyMail.com. 

‘They’d say, you shouldn’t be doing this, doing that.

‘They are shaming me now. But at this point, I don’t care.’

Abelseth said her family believed that her then-boyfriend was the father.

‘Everyone assumed he was,’ she said. ‘And he just wanted to be.’

Asked if he knew the circumstances, Abelseth replied: ‘I can’t speak to that.’

Despite the scary situation, she said she never considered terminating the pregnancy.

‘I was terrified, but never in any doubt,’ she said.

‘I guess the mothering instinct kicked in.’

For the first five years of her daughter’s life, Abelseth raised her child in peace.

She said she never saw Barnes again and managed to avoid crossing paths with him despite the pair of them living in the same small town.

‘The only time I ever came into the same vicinity as him was when this same friend I was in the bar with wanted to stop off in the bar, and say hi to her brother. And Barnes was with him.

‘Apparently he asked about me. But I have no idea what he said.’

In 2010, Abelseth’s world was turned upside down when Barnes learned he was the girl’s father.

How he found out, Abelseth said, she was ‘not 100 per cent sure.’

She added: ‘I couldn’t say.’

A paternity test later proved that the child was his.

Barnes then began legal proceedings, attempting to wrest custody of the girl from her mother.

‘He was bringing me to court two or three times a year – he was filing and filing,’ she said.

‘It was exhausting emotionally – I was dragged through the wringer. All those years of legal fees and debt.’

Barnes has adamantly denied the rape allegations, saying he thought Abelseth was a legal adult at the time because she was using a fake ID

Barnes has adamantly denied the rape allegations, saying he thought Abelseth was a legal adult at the time because she was using a fake ID

Records obtained by WBRZ show that a DNA test proved Barnes was the father of the child

Records obtained by WBRZ show that a DNA test proved Barnes was the father of the child

On October 3, 2011 the court awarded the pair joint custody, but the fights over child support and raising the child continued. 

In January 2013, Abelseth filed court documents claiming Barnes had another custody case ongoing, as the result of fathering a child with Amiee Ball. 

Abelseth said that Ball filed domestic abuse charges against Barnes. 

Traumatized by the proceedings, Abelseth sought out a counselor, who told her that she was still within the statute of limitations to press charges – something she said she had not known.

‘I knew the gravity of the situation,’ she said. ‘And the court hearings made me relive it over and over again.

‘But I wanted justice. I wanted to see him behind bars.’

It remains unclear why Barnes was never charged.

Abelseth believes that the sexual assault report she filed against him with Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office has not been thoroughly investigated.

‘It was never assigned to a detective, and nothing was ever investigated,’ she alleged in an interview with her local TV station.

The sheriff’s department told WBRZ that the investigation into Abelseth’s claims was open and ongoing – but has not moved since 2015.

In April 2021 the teenager accused her father of hitting her in the face, amid the ongoing row about the cell phone.

Abelseth again filed a report at Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office, but they concluded that there were ‘no marks or signs of distress’.

Sean Cassidy, an attorney with Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault, told WBRZ he had never come across a case like this.

‘It seems pretty straight-forward that not only did a crime take place, but as a result of the crime, this person should not have custody of the child,’ he said.

Stacie Triche, an activist who set up the Save Lives organization, has helped Abelseth navigate the legal system.

‘When I found out she was a rape victim, and this rapist could potentially get full custody, that’s when I stepped in and said something has to be done about this,’ she told WBRZ.

‘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.’

Triche told DailyMail.com she had been astonished by the ‘arrogance’ of Barnes, in demanding financial support from Abelseth.

Barnes was awarded joint custody in 2015; in March this year, he won full custody.

Abelseth said that he made ‘accusations against me’, but refused to elaborate.

‘They have not been tested in court,’ Triche said.

One of the reasons for losing custody, Abelseth said, was an allegation that the teenager had been given a cell phone without Barnes’s consent, and which he did not have access to.

He argued that it violated their agreement. But Triche said his claim was ‘a lie’.

Asked how the small, rural Louisiana community was reacting, Abelseth said that there had been ‘divided responses.’ 

Barnes, who has nine hunting licenses across Missouri, Arkansas, and Mississippi, was well known in the community.

‘His friends defend him,’ she said. ‘But for the most part, I don’t read the comments online.

‘Most people have been amazing.’

Asked what she would say to Barnes, if she saw him, Abelseth fell silent.

‘I don’t know,’ she said. ‘He knows what he’s done.’

Web designer and accused rapist John Barnes is seen outside his home in Hammond, Louisiana Thursday in exclusive DailyMail.com photos

Web designer and accused rapist John Barnes is seen outside his home in Hammond, Louisiana Thursday in exclusive DailyMail.com photos

He operates Gumbeaux Digital Branding from his property, financed with a $440,999 mortgage from the Veterans Administration, according to records

He operates Gumbeaux Digital Branding from his property, financed with a $440,999 mortgage from the Veterans Administration, according to records

But Barnes has adamantly denied that he raped Abelseth, saying in an interview this week he thought she was an adult when they met because she was in a bar using a fake ID. 

‘It’s a lie. She was in a bar with a fake ID, telling everyone she was a college student. 

‘I had no idea she was 16, and I didn’t rape her. That is absolutely, unequivocally false,’ he told FOX. 

He also denied ever laying a hand on his daughter or drugging her – as the girl’s mother recently alleged – and claimed he was granted custody of her after her mother gave her a second, unrestricted cell phone which she used to post ‘sexually explicit videos on TikTok’. 

Abelseth alleged that he drugged and raped their daughter, claiming that is what he did to her when she was 16, and claiming that he was not charged because he was well-connected. 

‘All I have been trying to do is protect my daughter. There is no way in hell I have influenced seven very high-level organizations that are geared toward protecting children’s rights and safety into sweeping her claims of rape and child abuse under the rug,’ he said. 

Instead, he claims, Abelseth created an unstable home for their daughter and allowed a ‘revolving door of men’ to sleepover in their house. 

He also said he only discovered he was the child’s father in 2011 when she was five, and that a different man’s name was on her birth certificate. 

That man was an ex-con who Abelseth visited in prison with her daughter, according to Barnes. 

DailyMail.com previously spotted website designer Barnes at his large, newly built house from where he runs his digital business in Hammond, Louisiana.

He came to the door but refused to respond to the shocking allegations made by  Abelseth. 

‘I know you have a hell of a story here, but I’m not saying anything more than my responses in the official court documents,’ he told DailyMail.com.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk

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