Barretos plead not guilty to new charges

Relates to:
Date: 2008-06-27
Source: Daily Journal

By Patsy R. Brumfield

NEW ALBANY - It took two minutes Thursday for Ramon and Janet Barreto to formally be charged and plead not guilty to accusations they so grossly neglected their 2-year-old adoptive child that she died at the hands of her 17-year-old sister.

"I think the state’s gone out on a limb," their attorney, Tony Farese of Ashland, said immediately after their arraignment at the Union County Justice Center.

"It's one thing to allege child endangerment, it's another to allege the death of a child."

Janet Barreto's teenage daughter by a previous marriage, Marainna Torres, is being kept from the public eye, under $1 million bond, charged with capital murder in Enna's death.

Her attorney, Thomas Levidiotis of Oxford, said later Thursday that Torres attended a circuit court hearing last week in lieu of an initial appearance to explain to her the charges and her legal situation.

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

Farese, one of the state's top defense attorneys, also predicted prosecutors will offer Torres a deal for leniency to testify against her parents.

The Barretos, who entered the small courtroom in handcuffs with their legs shackled, have been in jail more than a month on seven counts of child endangerment after the May 19 death of their daughter, Enna Isabel.

She died of severe head and lower body trauma, which family members originally said was caused after she fell from a shopping cart during a Memphis outing.

The endangerment charges come from a sheriff’s department investigation of their 824 County Road 87 trailer home, where they found squalid conditions inside and a puppy mill out back.

"The 17-year-old is the lady who killed the child in question," Farese insisted Thursday.

For nearly a month after the death, Torres was treated in a Memphis psychiatric facility. It’s only in the past few days that investigators have been able to question her.

"Ultimately, the parents are responsible for their children," said Investigator Roger Garner. "We're beginning to get some understanding of what happened."

Farese said prosecutors, after interviewing Torres, decided the Barretos should be charged anew with manslaughter by culpable negligence because they entrusted Enna’s care to the teenager.

According to Union County's official charge, Torres became "overwhelmed" with "all care, nourishment, and supervision" of Enna, which led to her death.

If convicted of the new charges, the Barretos could face no more than two years in prison. Justice Judge Ronnie Rakestraw set their bonds at $100,000 each.
That brings to $450,000 their total bonds each.

Farese said he will ask the Circuit Court to reduce their bonds so they can go home. They face an Aug. 5 preliminary hearing in Circuit Court on all the charges.

The Barretos are parents to Torres, their own biological child and six other adoptive children reportedly born in Guatemala. All the children are in foster care in custody of the Mississippi Department of Human Services.

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

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