A man convicted of kidnapping and traveling with a minor to engage in a sexual act was sentenced to life in prison on Feb. 20, according to a statement released by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Henri Michelle Piette, 65, was sentenced to life for kidnapping, 360 months for traveling with intent to engage in sexual acts with a juvenile, a $50,000 fine and ordered to pay $50,067 restitution.
During the 2019 trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Piette kidnapped his stepdaughter Rosalynn McGinnis, who was 12 at the time, from Poteau, Okla., where he had been living with McGinnis’ mother.
“Over the course of the nearly 20 years that followed, the defendant repeatedly raped and inflicted additional physical and emotional abuse upon the victim,” the department stated. “The victim gave birth to nine children, the first being born in 2000 when she was 15 years-old.”
In June 2016, McGinnis managed to flee — with eight of the nine children she had with Piette — from a remote village in Mexico where she had been held. (Her eldest child, a son, ran away before her escape; they have since been reunited.)
Upon her return to the U.S., the FBI began an investigation in search of Piette. In 2017, McGinnis sat down with PEOPLE and told her story while still living in fear of her abductor.
On Sept. 7, 2017, according to a federal complaint, there was a development in the case: An FBI special agent was notified that Piette, who had resided in Central America and Mexico for a lengthy period of time, “visited the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City attempting to obtain a U.S. Passport.”
A month later, Piette was arrested in Dallas.
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At the time of his arrest, McGinnis gave an exclusive statement to PEOPLE.
“Relief is such a small word in comparison to how I feel about the capture of Henri Piette. However, it is the closest I am able to come to describing my overall demeanor at this time,”she said. “Knowing that the man who physically took 22 years from me, leaving me with a lifetime of painful challenges, has been captured makes today one of the most pivotal times of my life.”
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Federal prosecutors stated they hope Piette’s sentencing provides closure and an opportunity for McGinnis and her family to heal.
“Life in prison is a sentence the law reserves for the most serious offenders — offenders like Henri Michelle Piette. 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,” said U.S. Attorney Brian J. Kuester. “The victim’s courage ended the defendant’s reign of terror. Unfortunately, the horrific memories may very well last a life time. It is fitting that the defendant’s sentence will also.”