She was around 11 years old when her stepfather, Henri Michele Piette, kidnapped her from school in 1997, police say.
Piette then allegedly married Rosalynn Michelle McGinnis in a van in Wagoner, Okla., east of Tulsa, according to court filings reviewed by the Oklahoman. During the ceremony, he allegedly even gave the girl a ring.
After living as a captive and being raped and abused for nearly two decades, McGinnis, 33, said she finally made her escape in Mexico in June 2016, eventually getting help from the U.S. Embassy there, the Oklahoman reports. She was able to bring eight of her nine kids with her. The other child, her oldest, had already run away.
And now, her alleged captor has been arrested, according to Fox News.
Piette, 62, has been charged in Wagoner County with first-degree rape, two counts of lewd molestation of a child and physical abuse of a child, Fox reports. He is believed to have connections to criminal organizations in Mexico, according to KRMG.
McGinnis’ mother had separated from Piette in the 1990s following allegations of abuse, according to court filings the Oklahoman reviewed, and the girl and her mother had been living at shelters in Poteau, Okla.
Then, in January of 1997, Piette allegedly abducted McGinnis from school and began traveling around the country and into Mexico with her. He told his other children that she would be their new mother, an FBI agent said in a court filing, the Oklahoman reports.
One of Piette’s sons said in an interview with the FBI that he remembered officiating at the marriage “ceremony” when he was only 15, the Oklahoman reports. Then came decades of rape and abuse, McGinnis said.
“I cried every night,” McGinnis told People.
She told authorities that she was beaten with bats, choked and stabbed throughout her time in Piette’s hands, and that she was raped daily. Piette and the rest of the family frequently assumed new aliases so they wouldn’t draw attention, according to documents reviewed by the Oklahoman.
After moving for years throughout the U.S. and Mexico, Fox reports, she said she was able to escape last year from a tent they were staying at in a remote area of Mexico.
“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 People magazine.
McGinnis now lives in the Midwest with her children. A GoFundMe page has been set up to support McGinnis and her family, People reports. Her youngest is 2, and her oldest is 17.
Wagoner County District Attorney Jack Thorp told the Oklahoman that the FBI and federal prosecutors were instrumental in catching and extraditing Piette.
His first court appearance will be on Tuesday following his arrest Oct. 5 in Mexico, according to Fox. The arrest came after the FBI made a break in the case last month, People reports.