According to the FBI, a child goes missing or is abducted every 40 seconds in the United States. Stories of kidnappings often make front-page news, leaving the names of women like Jaycee Dugard, Elizabeth Smart, and Amanda Berry forever imprinted on the minds of viewers across the country. Their tragic yet heroic stories of against-all-odds escapes are celebrated by the public.
The 1997 kidnapping of Rosalynn McGinnis is yet another story of surviving the unthinkable. McGinnis was abducted at the age of 12 by her stepfather, Henri Piette, and she lived with him and their nine children in Mexico for nearly two decades before escaping. Authorities then took nearly a year before they were able to locate Piette, who had abused McGinnis daily for 19 years. Authorities tracked Piette down in September 2017 when he visited the US Embassy in Mexico City while attempting to obtain a US passport.
Rosalynn McGinnis Was Kidnapped As She Was Leaving School One DayVideo: YouTube
Rosalynn McGinnis was abducted while leaving school in January 1997. She was only 12 years old. In the days leading up to her kidnapping, McGinnis's mother was living in a women's shelter with her children, including Rosalynn, after her husband allegedly beat her. The husband was named Henri Michelle Piette, who later lured McGinnis into a van as she was leaving her middle school in Wagoner, OK.
After being abducted, McGinnis was forced to travel to various locations across the state, where she lived in tents with Piette and his three children. They then began to move around the country, but would occasionally go back to Oklahoma where McGinnis was forced to mail letters to her family, leading them to believe she had remained in the state. During those roughly 20 years, McGinnis says Piette assaulted her daily.
No one would know the truth of what happened to McGinnis until she escaped her captor in June 2016. She was then 33 years old.
Prior To Abducting McGinnis, Henri Piette Forced Her To 'Marry' Him
Months before abducting his stepdaughter, Piette began his calculated manipulation of McGinnis. He eventually held a "wedding ceremony" for the two of them in the back of a van and forced his teenage son to marry them; however, McGinnis explains that Piette had been grooming her for some time. Her single mother, who had split from McGinnis's biological father, was handing out fliers for a neighborhood watch when she met Piette in Missouri. When McGinnis was 10, Piette then moved the whole family to Oklahoma.
According to an affidavit, Piette first had sex with McGinnis at her home in Wagoner, OK, on the bottom bed of a bunk bed.
“It’s hard to describe when you’ve been through so much trauma in your life, especially when the man who did this to you is not caught,” McGinnis told People in 2017, reflecting on her life before Piette was caught. “You’re always looking over your shoulder thinking that he’s going to show up and take you again.”
Piette Took McGinnis To Mexico After He Abducted Her
After taking McGinnis from her school, Piette traveled across several states before making his way to Mexico in 2000. Once in Mexico, he and McGinnis began living in a small tent in a rural village.
Piette forced McGinnis to take on fake identities and earn money while begging on the streets. She eventually learned how to make and sell coffee, honey, and ice cream in the village.
Piette Forced McGinnis To Have Nine Children With Him
Over the 19 years that Piette held McGinnis against her will, McGinnis was forced to bear nine of his children with no expert medical assistance. The first pregnancy occurred when she was only 15 years old. In an effort to protect the children from the horrifying reality of their situation, McGinnis kept her abduction and abuse a secret from them for years. Not until they all escaped Piette did the children learn the truth.
While held captive, McGinnis also suffered severe abuse from Piette on a daily basis. Piette's other children eventually came forward to confirm they had witnessed this mistreatment firsthand. "Any kind of abuse that you can think of, he did to me," McGinnis later said of Piette in an interview.