Sheriff: 'We dropped the ball and there's no excuse'
HAMMOND - Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards admitted his office dropped the ball involving a botched rape investigation that led to a perpetrator gaining custody of the child he fathered with a minor.
The case garnered national and international headlines last week after the WBRZ Investigative Unit exposed what happened.
Crysta Abelseth says she was raped in 2005 after a night of drinking. John Barnes agreed to take her home, but she said he brought her to his house and raped her instead. She came away from that encounter pregnant, and DNA test results prove Barnes is the father.
In 2015, Abelseth filed a police report with the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office. The case went no where until the WBRZ Investigative Unit aired a story Monday.
"What I want the public to know is in 2015, we dropped the ball," Sheriff Daniel Edwards said. "It was an accident and not some conspiracy. I feel bad for Crysta that happened. But, I want the public to know this was not a willful continuing failure."
Sheriff Edwards said Monday he believes John Barnes violated the law.
"I think John Barnes committed a crime in December of 2005," Edwards said. "I absolutely do."
So, WBRZ asked why he has not been arrested.
"Haven't arrested him because when this case came back to our attention in February, whatever time frame it was," Edwards said. "When it came back to us there were other cases that were going along with it, and allegations that were related. Some were complex. We had to wait for attorneys to come in. More came in, and all being related we wanted to do everything at one time."
Following public outcry last week, Edwards said his office turned the case over to the District Attorney's Office for prosecution. Abelseth's rape isn't the only one the sheriff's office has to investigate.
Court documents that were unsealed last week indicate a month before the judge gave full custody of Abelseth and Barnes' teenage child to him, the girl reported Barnes sexually assaulted her two nights in a row. The girl sought treatment at a hospital in New Orleans where a doctor confirmed there was evidence of a sexual encounter.
Edwards confirmed to WBRZ Monday that the sexual assault kit from that incident is still sitting in the State Police Crime Lab.
"I would assume it hasn't been tested," Edwards said. "Normally, as soon as it's tested, they say 'hey it's ready for pickup.' We have not been told it's ready for pickup."
Monday, Edwards took accountability for his office's failure.
"We dropped the ball, and there's no excuse for it," Edwards said. "This is not something that has occurred in the past and not something I've seen happen since. One time is one time too many."
However, Edwards said if Ableseth had reached out to the department, they would have realized the case had not been looked into.
"Had Crysta attempted to get in touch with us at any point in time to ask the status of this we would have certainly realized a failure. We would have pulled the case and made sure it got assigned to a detective," Edwards said.
Edwards said the responsible deputy who should have assigned Abelseth's case to a detective died in 2019. That does not explain why nothing was done with the case during the four years that he was alive.
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