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Kept Prisoner for 19 Years, Rosalynn McGinnis Speaks Out on Arrest of Her Alleged Abductor

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A man who allegedly held his former stepdaughter captive for nearly 20 years after abducting her from school — a living nightmare she later recounted to PEOPLE — has been charged with child abuse and rape, according to federal court documents.

Henri Piette, 62, was reportedly taken into custody in Mexico on Thursday.

He is charged in Wagoner County, Oklahoma, with two counts of lewd molestation and one count each of first-degree rape and child abuse by injury, according to a federal criminal complaint obtained by PEOPLE.

Earlier this year, Piette’s former stepdaughter, 33-year-old Rosalynn McGinnis, went public with her story in a sit-down with PEOPLE, in which she recalled meeting Piette for the first time at 9 years old — and the alleged abuse that followed.

When she was 12, McGinnis said, Piette took her from her Oklahoma school and kept her against her will for 19 years. She said he beat, raped and tortured her while she was captive.

In June 2016, she managed to flee — with eight of the nine children she had with Piette — from the remote village in Mexico where she had been held. (Her eldest child, a son, had run away before her escape; they have since been reunited.)

Upon her return to the U.S., the FBI began an investigation in search of Piette. PEOPLE first published her story in August.

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Rosalynn McGinnis
From left: Rosalynn McGinnis as a teenager with Henri Piette
Courtesy Rosalynn McGinnis

On Sept. 7, according to the federal complaint, there was a break in the case: An FBI special agent was notified that Piette, who had resided in Central America and Mexico for a long period of time, “visited the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City attempting to obtain a U.S. Passport.”

The complaint further states Piette has “deep ties” to criminal organizations in Mexico. (The court documents do not identify McGinnis by name, though the allegations are identical to those she made in speaking to PEOPLE.)

“It is also believed he [Piette] is trying to obtain a passport for the purpose for cashing United States Army Pension checks,” federal authorities allege in the documents.

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The complaint, filed on Sept. 21, sought an arrest warrant against Piette for fleeing prosecution.

It was unclear Monday if Piette had been returned to Oklahoma following his arrest last week, if he had entered a plea to his charges or if he had retained an attorney who could comment on his behalf.

Local and federal authorities could not immediately be reached for comment.

McGinnis Looking Forward to ‘Life of Freedom’

For more than a year after her return to the U.S., McGinnis lived in fear while constantly looking over her shoulder. But not anymore.

“‘Relief’ is such a small word in comparison to how I feel about the capture of Henri Piette. However, it is the closest I am able to come to describing my overall demeanor at this time,” McGinnis tells PEOPLE in an exclusive statement.

“Knowing that the man who physically took 22 years from me, leaving me with a lifetime of painful challenges, has been captured makes today one of the most pivotal times of my life.”

“My children and I suffer daily as a result of this predator’s abuse,” she continues. “Now, we look forward to continuing our newfound life of freedom and moving forward, having a lifetime of happiness and success.”