Father at middle of high-profile rape paternity case loses custody of teenage daughter

AMITE – A man who impregnated a 16-year-old girl over 15 years ago will no longer have custody of the child who was born as a result of that crime after a series of reports from the WBRZ Investigative Unit exposing the case.

The story first reported by Chief Investigator Chris Nakamoto garnered international attention after it revealed Crysta Abelseth was ordered to pay child support to John Barnes, the father of her now 16-year-old daughter.

Click here to see an extended behind-the-scenes look at how WBRZ broke the story

Abelseth was 16 years old in 2005, when she alleges Barnes forced himself on her after a night of drinking at a bar. Barnes, who was 30 at the time, admitted to having sex with the underage girl but maintained their encounter was consensual. Court documents also alluded to a “non-party eyewitness to the actual sexual encounter” which refuted Abelseth’s version of events.

Barnes has never been charged with a crime, and the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office admitted that it failed to investigate a criminal complaint filed by Abelseth in 2015.

Per Judge Jeffrey Cashe’s ruling, the pair’s daughter will remain with a third party who’s housed the girl for over a month while the custody battle played out in court. Abelseth will be granted visitation one weekend each month and any other times approved by the girl’s new guardians.

The ruling from Judge Cashe, who previously granted Barnes full custody earlier this year despite allegations that he was abusing his daughter, lambasted both parents for their “bitter, vengeful, and typically highly emotional conflict.”

Abelseth was ordered to complete a parenting class and participate in family counseling sessions.

Barnes may not initiate contact with the girl, and he can only communicate with his daughter if she chooses to reach out to him first, according to court documents.

Jarrett Ambeau, Abelseth’s attorney, released the following statement Friday.

I think the judge made a good ruling with regard to Mr. Barnes. It’s the right outcome, should have been from the beginning.

As for my client’s custody and visitation, I didn’t hear sufficient evidence that she should not have custody of her child or at least be working toward having custody. We are disappointed that the third-party custodians have been granted sole custody on a permanent basis.

Crysta and I will talk about the outcome and make a decision on appealing that part of the judgment. She is very happy that the child will no longer be subject to visitation with Mr Barnes.

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