Union County Couple Face Charges In Girl's Death

Relates to:
Date: 2008-05-21
Source: wreg.com

Union County Couple Face Charges In Girl's Death

FAST FACTS:

  • 2-year-old's death ruled homicide
  • Couple arrested, children in state custody
  • 185 dogs found in what experts call "bad condition"

Posted by: Dennis Turner
dennis.turner@wreg.com

(New Albany, MS 5/21/8) The death of a Mississippi 2-year-old is getting more complicated tonight. A Union County couple face criminal charges in the case. Meantime, animal cruelty charges are pending for a puppy mill the couple ran which animal rights activists call horrible.

Murder charges are very possible against Janet and Ramon Barreto of New Albany after the Shelby County medical examiner determined the death of the couple's 2-year-old adopted daughter was intentional.

But investigators only tell half the story. The family's attorney gives us the other side.

The Barreto family home looks like a children's paradise. Toys sit neatly in a fenced play area, but Janet and Ramon Barreto have become the focus of a murder investigation after the death of their 2-year-old girl. "Janet is a nice lady. She has a loving heart. She loves children. She has some physical problems, she's currently pregnant right now," said Attorney Tony Farese.

And now, she sits in jail and could face murder charges along with her husband while detectives sort out what happened. "We lack a couple of people. We need to talk to, we need to re-interview some of the children and then we'll go from there," said Union County Sheriff Tommy Wilhite.

And the children could well be the key to the truth here. "The family had been to Memphis, where returning home, had returned home, and there was a 17-year-old minor that had the 2-year-old in question," said Farese.

The couple has nine children ranging in age from 2 to 17. Two are Janet Barreto's natural children, and the others are adopted, mostly from Guatemala.

The investigation into this case gets more complicated by the day. It involves, Tennessee, Mississippi, sheriff's investigators, the DA, State Children's Services, even U S Immigration, not to mention the Humane Society. It makes an already complicated investigation almost impossible to understand.

Add to that, the horrible conditions of the puppy mill behind the home. "I do feel like there will be additional charges coming," said Sheriff Wilhite.

But murder charges? The couple's attorney doubts it. "I believe once this investigation is concluded you will have the 17-year-old minor potentially charged. I think the parents will be exonerated of any wrongdoing," said Farese.

Maybe, but District Attorney Ben Creekmore tells me he will ask the couple be held in jail without bond for the foreseeable future. Arraignment before a judge is expected in the next day or so, but in a case this fluid and this complicated, those involved say it's hard to predict when the next step will take place.

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