Teenager admits killing sister, 2

Relates to:
Date: 2008-07-03
Source: Daily Journal

NEMS Daily Journal
By Patsy R. Brumfield

OXFORD – A tearful Marainna Torres stood before Circuit Court Judge Andrew Howorth on Wednesday and publicly admitted she killed her toddler stepsister, Enna Barreto.

She gave no details but nodded her head and said “yes sir,” when asked if she were indeed guilty of manslaughter by culpable negligence.

The legal document accusing Torres of the child’s death states that she did so “by hitting and throwing” Enna into a baby bed May 17. The child died two days later.

On May 30, the 17-year-old Torres was charged with the capital murder of her 2-year-old sister, carrying possible sentences of life in prison or the death penalty.

Her plea Wednesday now puts the sentence in the two to 20 years range.

Torres also caused a brief stir in the court when she told Howorth she was pleading guilty to a reduced charge “for a lighter sentence.”

Her attorney, Thomas Levidiotis of Oxford, quickly jumped in verbally when Torres said she was promised leniency for her plea.

That’s not really what she meant, he chattered in legal talk to Howorth.

District Attorney Ben Creekmore also was quick to say his office hadn’t promised anything to her in exchange for her guilty plea.

“Even if they did,” Howorth said to her, “this court would not be bound by it.”

Perhaps what you mean, Howorth continued, is that in pleading guilty to a lesser charge than capital murder, you anticipate a lighter sentence?

Yes, she responded.

Capital murder is murder during the commission of another crime; in this case, child abuse.

“It’s just as I predicted,” Ashland defense attorney Tony Farese said after the court hearing. He represents Torres’ biological mother, Janet Barreto, and stepfather, Ramon Barreto, who also are charged with manslaughter by culpable negligence.

“She’s pled down from a possible death penalty case to testify against her parents.

“I believe she has been promised a lighter sentence,” Farese noted from Torres’ remark in court.

Torres was not sentenced, further hinting at her likely testimony in a trial against the Barretos.

Creekmore said he was withholding comment until the Barreto case is “taken care of.”

A September grand jury is expected to consider what charges ultimately will be brought, if any, against the Barretos, who live in rural Union County. They maintain they have done nothing wrong.

The 2-year-old died at a Memphis hospital from severe injuries to her head and lower torso, an autopsy report showed. Family members initially told investigators the child had fallen from a shopping cart during a Memphis outing.

The Barretos are in the Union County Jail on $450,000 bond each, also accused of seven counts of child endangerment. They have pleaded not guilty.

Farese said again Wednesday he plans to ask the court to reduce their bond so they can go home.

They were arrested soon after Enna’s death when deputies found squalid conditions at their County Road 87 residence, as well as a puppy mill.

They were charged with the endangerment of their remaining seven young children, one their biological child together and the others adopted from Guatamala, officials said.

The manslaughter charges were added after investigators interviewed Torres last week. She was in a Memphis psychiatric hospital for 30 days after Enna’s death and wasn’t available for official interviews until she was released.

Her siblings have been in the custody of the state Department of Human Services since their parents’ arrest.

Union County sheriff’s Investigator Roger Garner said Torres is in an “undisclosed” jail within easy reach of him and her attorney.

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

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