A Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier was federally charged Friday with aggravated sexual abuse of a child for allegedly repeatedly raping a young family member and posting sexual photographs of the child online.
Sgt. Joseph French, 27, appeared in court Friday afternoon and stipulated to detention until his next hearing, set for Feb. 28. Under rules of federal procedure, he is not yet required to enter a plea to the charges against him. Agreeing to detention also means no bail for the moment.
French was arrested Tuesday after the 10-year-old girl's mother reported the alleged abuse to authorities in Florida.
Law enforcement in Florida called the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division, which immediately launched an investigation with the State Patrol’s Missing and Exploited Children Task Force and arrested French within four hours.
French is being held at the Pierce County Jail in Washington state and is on suicide watch.
Charging papers tell this story:
French has sexually abused the girl for three years both on base and at a Yelm, Wash., home. He is accused of tying her wrists and feet to a swing while he raped her on several occasions and sometimes allowing a military sergeant and woman to watch the abuse via Skype.
The woman urged French to “ravage” the young girl, prosecutors said. The woman and sergeant who watched the rape have not yet been identified.
After the abuse, French would allegedly force the girl to wear pants and long-sleeved shirts to cover the redness from the straps. If she complained about the pain or said she didn’t want to make videos, he would get mad and tell her she could cooperate or “sure as heck get out of the house,” charging papers show.
The girl confided to French's mother around Christmas that he was abusing her but the woman told the girl not to tell or French would go to jail, according to court documents.
French initially denied to detectives that he raped the girl but eventually admitted to at least 15 encounters, began crying and said he needs help, authorities say.
“French stated he felt shame and guilt and was not able to stop what he was doing,” charging papers show.
Prosecutors said he would lock the girl's siblings in their room while he sexually abused the victim but those children were exposed to pornography in his home.
Investigators ask anyone who may have been a victim of French to contact the State Patrol at 360-704-2410 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.