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Sheriff admits department 'dropped the ball' after Nakamoto report on startling rape case; investigation turned over to DA's office

2 months 1 day 9 hours ago Friday, June 17 2022 Jun 17, 2022 June 17, 2022 1:30 PM June 17, 2022 in News
Source: WBRZ

HAMMOND - A sheriff is admitting his office botched a rape investigation after the accusation went unaddressed for years until the case made international headlines because of a WBRZ Investigative Unit report

The statement from Sheriff Daniel Edwards came as the department wrapped its investigation into the long-overlooked complaint, which was first filed nearly seven years ago. The case has now been turned over to the district attorney's office, which will decide whether to pursue charges.

The supervisor responsible for assigning investigations at the time has not worked at the department since 2019, the sheriff's office said Friday.

The rape happened in 2005 and left Crysta Abelseth—who was 16 years old at the time—pregnant with John Barnes' daughter.

Abelseth said she didn't make a report until July 2015 because she thought it was too late for law enforcement to investigate the complaint. 

"I thought if I didn't do it the next day, there was nothing I could do about it," Abelseth said. "I went to a trauma counselor, and he said, 'No, you have 30 years after you turn 18.'"

Barnes, who admitted in court to being the child's father, was later granted custody of his teenage daughter. Judge Jeffrey Cashe also ordered that Abelseth pay child support.

Read the full story here

The full statement from the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office can be found below.

Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards reports that as of June 15, 2022, the case involving allegations against 46 – year-old John Barnes of Ponchatoula, LA, which has gained widespread media attention, has been turned over to the District Attorney’s Office.

This decision was made after the investigation revealed many layers and complexities surrounding the case, including statutory violations that were in effect during the 2005 timeframe of when the incident occurred. Due to the sensitive nature of cases involving sexual assault victims and juveniles, the sheriff’s office, along with other law enforcement agencies, does not have the luxury of releasing detailed information to the public.  In a statement released yesterday, 21st Judicial District Family Court Judge Jeff Cashe signed a “Reasons For Judgement” which allows court documents related to this case to be made available to the public through the Tangipahoa Parish Clerk of Court’s Office. 

In tracing this case back to the time the initial complaint was filed on July 1, 2015, it was discovered that the report never made it through the proper channels within the department to be assigned for investigation. Therefore, our department absolutely dropped the ball, and we simply must own our mistake.  This is a mistake, however, that simply has never been a problem before or since, and we must make sure to keep it that way.

“The Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office has reviewed and identified the breakdown in operations relating to the initial complaint filed by the complainant.  Since that time, enhancements to department procedures have been implemented and measures put in place to ensure reports from the public never go overlooked or mishandled.  Especially those cases alleging criminal acts 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.”  

Additionally, it is important to note that the complainant did not follow up on this matter until April of 2022.  Upon receiving notice, a team of investigators were assigned to and worked diligently to delve deep into the facts surrounding the case.  Due to the complex nature of their findings, the case was turned over to the District Attorney’s Office.   

Sheriff Edwards urges the public to dial 9-1-1 for all emergency situations.  Citizens can also file a police report directly with our office by calling (985) 748- 8147.  Sheriff Edwards strongly discourages the use of social media to report crimes. Edwards also reminds the public that filing a false police report is a crime.  Those found guilty of doing so will be fully prosecuted. 

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