Officials continue to investigate child, animal abuse

Relates to:
Date: 2008-05-22

Officials continue to investigate child, animal abuse

Reported by Lori Brown
May 22, 2008 02:11 PM

As Tupelo Humane Society volunteers worked to rescue 200 dogs and cats from disgusting conditions Wednesday in a house near New Albany, Mississippi, sheriff's deputies worked to investigate the murder of a two-year-old there and the possible abuse her eight siblings.

Ramon and Janet Barreto's two-year-old daughter died at the hospital from blunt force trauma to her head. The possibility of sexual abuse of the children is also under investigation.

The children are now in state custody.

"I don't have words to explain," Sheriff Tommy Wilhite said. "Imagine 185 dogs, 25 cats, and nine kids in a three bedroom trailer. Pretty bad situation."

Wilhite said one of the children, a three-year-old, only weighed 20 pounds. That child and two others didn't make any sounds at all to communicate.

Of the Barreto's nine children, seven are adopted. It appears all the adopted children are from Guatemala.

"ICE agents are working to determine how they got across the border legally," Wilhite said.

What may not be legal is how five of the children were adopted. Officials said paperwork was missing, and investigators are trying to determine if the children were stolen.

Meanwhile the Humane Society is working on an investigation of it's own into animal abuse inside the home. Wednesday, investigators said the couple could face additional charges, and former customers spoke out for the first time about the animals they bought from the couple.

Whitney Hurdle unknowingly adopted a seven week old puppy, Tootsie, from the Barretos. Hurdle said she found the couple through a classified ad.

"Only one close," she said. "I could get it the next day. Didn't look into it. Now I wish I had."

Rather than get the puppy at the breeder's house, the breeder had Hurdle meet her in a parking lot. That's where Hurdle handed over $500 in cash- the only method of payment Barreto accepted.

"Had a child with her, a little girl," Hurdle said. "Nine or ten. Little girl carrying the puppy. She seemed alright. Gave me papers."

When Hurdle took Tootsie to the vet for her boosters, the vet was concerned about the teacup yorkie's size.

"He said he'd never seen one that small," she said.

A day after the booster shots, Tootsie died. Hurdle said she hoped her experience would encourage others always go the breeder's home before buying a dog.


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