Published November 17, 2014
Authorities searched the home of parents accused of abusing twin 10-year-olds — a girl who was found dead in the back of a pickup truck and a boy who was critically injured in the front seat after police said his father doused him with a chemical.
A chemical was also poured on the girl, Nubia, and it was difficult to determine if she had been abused before her death, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the case publicly. It's not clear if the chemical was poured on the girl before or after she died.
The father, Jorge Barahona, is charged with attempted first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse with a weapon after authorities siaid he doused Victor with chemicals. He told police he loaded his dead daughter into the truck, got into the pickup with his son and planned to kill himself. The boy was found convulsing in seizures, overcome by the toxins. The father was nearby on the ground, unresponsive.
Barahona pleaded not guilty Friday. He is being held without bail and ordered not to have contact with Victor or other children.
Meanwhile, police were also interviewing his wife, Carmen Barahona. Child welfare officials said she repeatedly covered for her husband in the days before the twins were found. Law enforcement officials said the truck was so toxic several rescue workers were sickened and had to be treated.
Officials with the Department of Children and Families said they expect charges to be filed against the mother. West Palm Beach Police Capt. Mary Olsen said her agency is reviewing evidence, and authorities searched the couple's Miami home late Thursday night, but she wouldn't give details.
Child welfare officials have said the couple tied the twins' hands and feet and locked them in the bathroom as punishment. The couple, who adopted the twins out of foster care in 2008, have been the subject of three abuse investigations in the past few years.
A family member called the abuse hotline last week after the Barahonas' granddaughter claimed the twins were being tied up and locked in a bathroom.
On Friday, a judge removed the granddaughter from her mother's care amid concerns that family members knew about the twins' abuse but did nothing. Officials said Carmen Barahona even warned the girl that these were "family secrets" that shouldn't be repeated.
DCF officials do not believe the granddaughter was abused.
A judge on Friday ordered the mother not to have contact with the girl and placed the child in her father's custody. The couple are divorced.
The girl's abuse allegations tipped off a futile four-day search for Jorge Barahona and the twins. The agency finally called police Monday, the same day the truck was found.
Child advocates questioned why the agency didn't alert police sooner.
Newly appointed DCF Secretary David Wilkins has asked for an outside review.
"There are obvious questions. Did we do the right things in certain places/" Wilkins told The Associated Press Friday. "Have (the Barahonas) been deceiving us ever since they were foster parents? Are there signs that we should've seen or did something happen and did something just break in their mind?"
He planned to visit Victor at the hospital Saturday.
A doctor said Victor's burned body was also covered with scars, including marks indicating he had been tied. DCF officials said Friday the boy is still in critical condition, but has made some progress.
Jorge Barahona admitted to starving his daughter, according to officials. It's unclear how the little girl died or how long she had been missing.
An autopsy was completed, but authorities said Friday it wouldn't be released for several days.
A public defender for Barahona, James Snowden, declined comment. Attorney Richard Joyce declined to comment on Carmen Barahonas's case in an e-mail Friday.
Associated Press Writer Matt Sedensky contributed to this report from West Palm Beach, Fla.