Parents reject torture claims

Relates to:
Date: 2008-08-08
Source: DJournal

NEW ALBANY - A Union County grand jury claims Janet Killough Barreto and Ramon Barreto, whose 2-year-old adopted daughter died at the hands of her teenage stepsister, also tortured three of their other children, with one forced to live caged in a closet off and on for nearly six years.

In the indictment, the Barretos are accused of three specific instances of child abuse:

- From Sept. 14, 2000, through Feb. 8, 2006, Adriana Killough, also known as Adriana Santana Lemar, was caged in a closet for prolonged periods and forced to eat, sleep, urinate and defecate in the cage.

- From Nov. 1, 2007, until May 1, 2008, Luisa Fernanda Barreto was tied in a baby crib.

- From Nov. 1, 2007, through May 1, 2008, Juan Fernando Barreto was tied in a baby crib.

The Barretos "did unlawfully, willfully, feloniously torture" each of these children, reads the July 25 indictment, signed by Connie Kelly, grand jury foreman.

But the Barretos' attorney, Tony Farese of Ashland, on Thursday, responded by saying, "This is nothing but allegations by the older child who is trying to save her own neck.

"The DA is selecting the term torture - it's all very inflammatory," Farese added. "My clients vehemently deny the accusations."

An official close to the investigation said Adriana, now 8 years old, was the first child then-Janet Killough adopted and later gave away because the child suffered from a brain disorder.

This indictment is the first mention of that child.

When authorities went to the Barreto home just outside New Albany in mid-May, to follow up on a Memphis hospital phone call about serious injuries to Enna, they found eight other children living in the home in squalid conditions. Other than Torres and a biological child of their own, the Barretos were parents to seven foreign-born children believed to be from Guatamala.

The indictment charges the Barretos with 10 counts: six charges of child neglect or endangerment; three charges of felony child abuse; and one charge of manslaughter by culpable negligence.

Their daughter, Enna, died May 19 after her 17-year-old stepsister, Marainna Torres, hit her and threw her into a baby bed, causing fatal internal injuries. Torres, who spent the next month in a Tennessee psychiatric facility, pleaded guilty July 2 to one count of manslaughter by culpable negligence before Circuit Judge Andy Howorth. She has not been sentenced.

Torres faces up to 20 years in prison and stated in court July 2 she thought she would be given a lighter sentence by pleading guilty.

Farese continues to predict prosecutors will use Torres as their key witness to testify against her biological mother and stepfather.

The Barretos are confined at the Union County Jail, but Farese said he will ask for a bond hearing soon.

Since the Barretos' arrests, all the children have been in protective custody of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, including Torres. Adriana Killough also is in DHS care.

The next term of Circuit Court in Union County begins Sept. 2.

In addition to 2-year-old Enna, the Barretos are adoptive parents to an 8-year-old, Byron Alexander Barreto; three 3-year-olds, Celeste Barreto, Edwin Estuardo Barreto and Juan Fernando Barreto; and two 2-year-olds, Luisa Fernando Barreto and Lucrecia Michelle Barreto, the indictment shows.

Count 10 accused them of causing Enna's death by adopting so many children and turning over their care to Marainna, a teenager without any training or help, which the grand jury stated led to Enna's death.

If convicted, the Barretos could be sentenced up to 50 years in the manslaughter and neglect charges, and 10 years to life on the child abuse charges.

Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.

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