DA, attorney quiet on possible deal for Union couple

Relates to:
Date: 2008-11-11
Source: DJournal

BY PATSY R. BRUMFIELD
Daily Journal

NEW ALBANY - If a deal is in the works for the futures of Janet and Ramon Barreto, neither legal side was talking Monday.

The Barretos were arrested and indictedseveral months ago in the death of their 2-year-old adoptive daughter, Enna, at the couple's rural Union County home, where they lived with her biological daughter, their own baby and six other children believed to be adopted by them from Guatemala.

As Circuit Court got under way Monday, their attorney, Tony Farese of Ashland, said there's no official change in their status: They are still in jail on $450,000 bond each charged with six counts of child endangerment, three counts of felony child abuse and one count of manslaughter by culpable negligence.

People close to the case had indicated that prosecutors had agreed to offer the Barrettos reduced charges, in exchange for guilty pleas.

Farese, who last week said reports of an agreement were not true, met privately with Assistant District Attorney Kelly Luther on Monday and did not deny he was offered a deal.

The case has drawn widespread attention because of the large number of international adoptions and the "puppy mill" that officers found in the couple's back yard when they arrived to investigate the child's death.

Monday, scores of people lined up in the upstairs courtroom to receive their indictment papers, and Judge Robert Elliott and Luther went through a list of nearly 150 cases on the docket for the one-week term.

More than 50 people lined up when Elliott asked if anybody needed an attorney.

Janet Barreto, 37, and Ramon Barreto, 31, pleaded not guilty Aug. 7 after their late July, 10-count indictments. If found guilty of all these charges, they face up to life in prison and $30,000 each in fines.

Marainna Torres, who is Janet Barreto's 17-year-old biological daughter from a previous marriage, admitted July 2 she killed Enna on May 18 when the teenager lost control, hit the child and threw her into a baby bed in their home near New Albany.

Torres awaits sentencing and is being held in an undisclosed jail, believed to be in Northeast Mississippi.

When she stated under oath before Judge Andrew Howorth that she had killed her sister, she also said she agreed to plead guilty so she would receive a lighter sentence. For pleading guilty to manslaughter by culpable negligence, she faces from two to 20 years in prison.

Since the Barretos' arrest, the children have been in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Human Services. Their ages range from 2 to 9.

Farese has contended District Attorney Ben Creekmore and Luther intend to use Torres to testify against her mother and stepfather.

Creekmore was cautious in predicting what might happen with the case, but he said, "As with any case, we will try to reach some kind of agreement," but that may not be possible.

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

They also are accused of torturing three of the children, one a ninth adopted child allegedly forced to live caged in a closet off and on for nearly six years.

Farese said his clients strongly deny the accusations.

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

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