Monday, October 16, 2017

Men who want to "own" other people...

This morning, I am inspired to write about two very disturbing true crime cases I read about as I was waking up.  Although they may seem like different situations, the reality is, they have a common thread.  Both cases are about men, in this case both white men, who "owned" other people in modern day America.  They used threats and violence to maintain a hold on the people in their captivity.

The first case is one from South Carolina.  52 year old Bobby Paul Edwards from Conway was a restaurant manager at the J&J Cafeteria, a business owned by Bobby Paul's brother, Ernest Edwards.  Bobby Paul Edwards has been charged with one count of forced labor because he's been accused of basically enslaving a developmentally challenged black man.  39 year old Christopher Edwards started working at the J&J Cafeteria when he was 12 years old.  He bussed tables and did some cooking and reportedly liked the work until 2010.  That was the year Bobby Paul started abusing him.

Smith explains that Edwards beat him with belts and butcher knives and put hot, greasy tongs to his neck to coerce him to work as a buffet cook.  Court documents allege that Edwards hit Smith with his hands, choked him, and repeatedly called him the n-word.  He also paid Smith less than $3000 a year.

Smith never told anyone about the abuse because he was afraid.  Apparently, others who worked at the restaurant were also afraid.  Customers would hear or see the abuse and ask the waitresses about it, but they were so terrified they wouldn't speak up about what was happening.  Finally, Geneane Caines reported the abuse and Edwards was arrested in 2014 on assault and battery charges.  Those charges are still pending.

If Edwards is convicted of forced labor, he could be fined up to $250,000 and could spend up to twenty years in prison.  Smith, who is now doing much better since he quit working at the cafeteria, reportedly would love to see his former abuser go to prison.  A federal lawsuit has also been filed against the Edwards brothers.

It's hard to imagine that we live in a time when there are still some people who think they have the right to enslave other people.  I'd have to know more about the Edwards brothers to understand where this attitude comes from.  However, I already know enough about them to know that they belong in prison.

The second case comes from Oklahoma... or at least that's where it started.  62 year old Henri Michele Piette is accused of kidnapping his eleven year old stepdaughter, "marrying" her, raping her, and forcing her to be his wife for nineteen years.  Rosalynn Michelle McGinnis, now 33, had been Piette's stepdaughter for a time.  Rosalynn's mother left Henri Piette due to the abuse.  Then eleven year old Rosalynn was abducted by one of Piette's sons.  At the time of her abduction, Rosalynn was playing outside at her school.  Piette "married" McGinnis in a van and she was introduced to Piette's children as "their new mother".

Over the next nineteen years, McGinnis was regularly raped and physically assaulted by Piette.  Piette forced her to move around the United States and Mexico, but would occasionally bring her to Oklahoma to mail letters so it would seem like she was still in Oklahoma.  I'm not sure if McGinnis had any children with Piette.  I would imagine she did.  According to the articles I've read, she had nine children, but it's not clear if those were kids she gave birth to or the ones to whom she was introduced as "their new mom".  I will assume she had nine kids in addition to the ones Piette forced her to raise (ETA: Yes, she did have nine kids).

Last year, McGinnis managed to get to the U.S. Embassy in Oaxaca City, Mexico and was brought back to the United States.  She is now living in a women's shelter in the midwest and a cousin has set up a GoFundMe campaign to help her get on her feet.

Every article I've read about this case sheds new light on just how awful McGinnis's situation must have been.  In the one posted by People Magazine, there is a picture of the squalor the family lived in in a tent in Mexico.  McGinnis is described as recovering from a primitive gall bladder operation, yet being forced to work while in excruciating pain.  With amazing resolve, McGinnis was able to escape her ordeal with eight of her nine kids.  The ninth kid, a son who had run away, reunited with her later.

Every time I bitch about my life, I should remember these folks who were literally enslaved by other people.  The second story is even more amazing to me than the first one.  Imagine, that girl probably had a probably normal start to her life until she was eleven or twelve years old.  Then, the unthinkable happened and she was sentenced to nineteen years with a monster.  It really says something about her intelligence and resilience that she was able to escape that situation with her kids.

I've read a number of comments about this case and a lot of people blame Rosalynn's mother.  I will admit, the first article I read was not long on details and I wondered what she did to get her daughter back.  I see now that she was fighting for her daughter's return.  Rosalynn was listed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and that was how she was able to escape Mexico.

I just hope Piette goes away for a very long time and McGinnis and her kids can recover from nineteen years of hell.


  1. regarding that piece of scum edwards, ant fine he pays should go directly to Smith. his restaurant she be sold and the proceeds from the sale should go to smith. Smith should live the good life to the degree that anything Edwards ever owned would allow him to live it up. we need to protect our most vulnerable citizens.

    as far as the sicko who "married" the poor little girl, these Jaycee Lee Dugard-type stories are probably more common than we know. I;m not a big fan of capital punishment, but the guy should rot in jail forever.

    1. Well, the restaurant actually belongs to Edwards' brother, who has been sued, but isn't in jail. I agree that he deserves a big settlement. At the very least, he should be paid back wages for all the time he worked and was vastly underpaid.

      The woman in the second story is actually working with the organization Jaycee Dugard started. Although I really hate reading about cases like theirs, I am glad to see something good has come out of it. It's kind of like war. War is an awful thing, but an awful lot of people have gotten better prosthetic limbs and trauma/field medicine has improved because of war... if that makes any sense.


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