It’s the kind of sadistic child abuse from which horror films are made. Adopted children, imprisoned in their bathtub, unable to escape because their father allegedly duct taped the shower curtain to the walls. One boy being burned with an acid or petroleum-type chemical, with previous evidence of torture all over his little body: a fractured clavicle and arm, scarring on his lower abdomen and buttocks and ligature marks on his wrists, implying that this 10 year old child had been tied up like an animal, straining to break free.
Investigators in West Palm Beach, Fla., believe the two people responsible for this, and so much more, are the children’s adoptive parents, Jorge and Carmen Barahona.
Jorge Barahona’s public defender left the West Palm Beach Courthouse this morning to relay the news to Barahona that once he is released from the hospital, he will likely go straight to jail.
Circuit Judge Ted Booras ordered him held on a $1 million bond, saying the 53-year-old father of four adopted children is “not only a flight risk, but a danger to himself and a danger to the community.” For now, Barahona is charged with aggravated child abuse. Many more serious charges are expected.
This gruesome story unfolded in South Florida early Monday morning when a Florida Road Ranger spotted Barahona’s red pickup truck parked on the grass along I-95. Inside the cab: Barahona and his 10-year-old son, Victor, both covered in and suffering from a still-unidentified toxic chemical, first described as “acid-like” and later as petroleum-based. In the back of the truck: The decomposing body of Victor’s twin sister; cause of death still undetermined.
Chase Scott, with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office tells Fox News that the truck was finally moved from the side of the Interstate this morning. Scott says Palm Beach detectives obtained a confession from Barahona, who apparently stated that he was so distraught over his daughter’s death that he was driving to kill himself. He gave his son Victor a handful of sleeping pills and told him to swallow them. Barahona then poured gasoline on himself with intent to light himself on fire, but since 10-year-old Victor’s head was in his lap, he didn’t.
Victor remains in critical condition, and has been transferred to the burn unit of another hospital. The Barahonas' two other adopted children have now been placed in state custody by an outraged Miami-Dade judge, Cindy Lederman.
Wednesday, as Carmen Barahona hid her face from the cameras with a sheet of paper inside the courtroom, Lederman was so angry by what she heard in her court that she ruled no one who has been in contact with the Barahona children will be in contact with them again.
Judge Lederman’s anger and disbelief also was directed at representatives from Florida’s Department of Children and Families, which has had numerous tips and investigations that the Barahona children were being abused.
“How could you get a call to the hotline on February 10, and the child be dead by the 14th?” Lederman grilled DCF investigator Andrea Fleary, who had been assigned to look into the reports that Victor and his twin sister Nubia were being abused. Fleary told the judge that Carmen Barahona kept telling her son to go into the other room and play on his computer.
“Wouldn’t’ that make you suspicious, like there was something going on?” Lederman asked with a tone of disbelief. Fleary said she ended her investigation abruptly at 9 p.m. Friday night because “we don’t do investigations on weekends,” a claim her bosses denied.
DCF’s top child welfare lawyer in Miami, Esther Jacobo, told Lederman that their investigation was thwarted by Carmen Barahonas' refusal to tell her where Jorge Barahona and the twins were staying.
Allegations that Victor and Nubia were being abused at home first came to light in June, when someone called the agency’s abuse hotline, saying that Nubia had been acting out inappropriately and had been suffering from “uncontrollable” hunger, was “nervous” and “jittery.”
By Monday morning, Nubia was dead, on the side of Interstate 95, in the back of her adopted father’s pickup truck, as a cloud of chemicals surrounded the vehicle.
Phil Keating joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in March 2004 and currently serves as FNC's Miami-based correspondent.