In the rape paternity case, the decide awarded the alleged abusive father custody of the kid regardless of claims of assault

UPDATE: During a hearing on Tuesday, Judge Jeffrey Cashe stripped custody of Crysta Abelseth’s daughter from the teen’s birth father, John Barnes. A court hearing is scheduled for July 15, where a final decision on custody will be made.

Read the full update here:


AMITE – Amid a mounting wave of public outrage after a story by the WBRZ investigative unit that showed the victim had paid child support to an alleged rapist, unsealed court documents show a judge awarded the abuser custody, alleging the mother had gave her daughter a phone.

The documents were unsealed in the community of Tangipahoa on Wednesday night and detail a year-long custody process that began in 2011 when John Barnes found out he had a daughter with Crysta Abelseth.

In April 2013, Barnes began paying Abelseth $428 in child support for the daughter he fathered after a night of drinking. In July 2015, Crysta filed a police report with the Tangipahoa Township Sheriff’s Office regarding the 2005 rape that resulted in the birth of her daughter. This report sat on her shelf and was not assigned to a detective for seven years.

In August 2015, Judge Jeffrey Cashe was assigned the case.

A custody-sharing agreement was reached six months after Cashe took over the case, and he ordered Abelseth to pay Barnes $78.41, which was increased to $117.72 a month the following year.

Four years passed and nothing happened in the court records. Then, in December 2020, Barnes filed a custody change motion, claiming his daughter was allowed to be unsupervised with her boyfriend at Abelseth’s home.

In January 2021, the child’s school counselor notified DCFS as the mandatory reporter that the child alleged that Barnes physically and mentally abused her. Abelseth requested that custody of Barnes be limited. Judge Cashe denied that request.

By November, Barnes was filing motions to smear Abelseth over a cell phone.

On February 2, 2022, Cashe found Abelseth in contempt over the phone and demanded that she pay $500. Abelseth was instructed not to provide her daughter with a mobile phone.

That same month, court records record for the first time that the child was conceived through rape. It is also alleged that Barnes drugged and sexually assaulted his daughter on February 21, 2022 and February 22, 2022.

“She was transported to New Orleans where she was examined and the doctor confirmed that there was evidence of forced entry consistent with sexual assault,” the document said.

On March 18, 2022, Judge Cashe dismissed all of Abelseth’s allegations, stating that not all criminal charges were accepted and the evidence does not support the allegations made by the daughter.

Court records were not clear as to what evidence prompted the judge’s decision. An abuse attorney for Abelseth told WBRZ that the Tangipahoa Township Sheriff’s Office had not cooperated with the family regarding the location of the daughter’s rape kit. The sheriff’s office again did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

Sheriff Daniel Edwards is the brother of the governor of LA. John Bel Edwards.

As of March 21, 2022, Barnes is seeking full custody, claiming that Abelseth provided another phone for the daughter. Barnes claimed that because the Tangipahoa Community Sheriff’s Office and DCFS did nothing, his daughter’s claims were false.

On the same day, Judge Cashe Barnes granted sole custody.

Further documents submitted show that the daughter continues to claim that her father abused her.

Judge Jeffrey Cashe notes in the court papers that the first time anything about alleged carnal knowledge or rape was mentioned was on April 26, 2022 — although records suggest it was brought up two months earlier.

That day, Abelseth’s attorney requested that Barnes’ detention be overturned.

Two weeks ago, the detective investigating the daughter’s alleged abuse asked not to be questioned. On June 1, 2022, Lisa Reilly filed a protection order requesting that if she takes part in testimony, questions be limited to matters not being investigated.

In a rare move, Judge Jeffrey Cashe added a reason why he ruled. That was added to the court filing late Wednesday night, claiming Abelseth never claimed she had been abused until Barnes asked for her to be held in contempt.

On Thursday, the Tangipahoa Sheriff’s Office announced it had referred the case to prosecutors after the WBRZ investigative unit’s report drew international attention.

Read the full statement below.

Tangipahoa Township Sheriff Daniel Edwards reports that on June 15, 2022, the case involving allegations against 46-year-old John Barnes of Ponchatoula, LA, who has garnered significant media attention, was referred to prosecutors.

This decision was made after the investigation uncovered many layers and complexities surrounding the case, including violations of the law that were in effect during the 2005 period when the incident occurred. Because of the sensitive nature of cases involving sexual assault victims and juveniles, the sheriff’s office, along with other law enforcement agencies, cannot afford the luxury of providing detailed information to the public. In a statement released yesterday, 21st Circuit Family Court Judge Jeff Cashe signed a “sentence statement” allowing court documents related to this case to be released to the public through the Tangipahoa Municipality Court Clerk’s office.

When we traced this case back to when the original complaint was filed on July 1, 2015, it turned out that the report never went through the proper channels within the department to be referred to an investigation. So our department absolutely dropped the ball and we just have to admit our mistake. However, this is a bug that has simply never been an issue before or since and we need to make sure it stays that way.

“The Tangipahoa Community Sheriff’s Office reviewed and identified the outage related to the complainant’s original complaint. Since then, departmental procedures have been improved and steps taken to ensure that public reports are never overlooked or mishandled. Especially the cases where crimes are alleged against our youth,” says Edwards. “The Sheriff’s Office is dedicated to protecting children and will do everything possible to protect the youth of our community from abuse and neglect.”

In addition, it is important to note that the complainant has not pursued this matter as of April 2022. After receiving the notification, a team of investigators was assigned and worked diligently to investigate the facts surrounding the case. Due to the complexity of their findings, the case was referred to the prosecutor’s office.

Sheriff Edwards urges the public to call 9-1-1 in all emergency situations. Citizens can also file a police report directly with our office by calling (985) 748-8147. Sheriff Edwards strongly advises against using social media to report crimes. Edwards also reminds the public that filing a false police report is a crime. Those found guilty will face extensive criminal prosecutions.

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