Marshals, Homeland Security probe Union case

Relates to:
Date: 2008-06-03
Source: Daily Journal

BY PATSY R. BRUMFIELD

NEW ALBANY - Federal authorities have their own questions about the death of a 2-year-old Guatemalan-born girl last month.

As the Union County Sheriff's Department continues its investigation into the death of Enna Isabel Barreto, the U.S. Marshals Service's Fugitive Task Force and the Department of Homeland Security are active in the case, the Daily Journal has learned.

Enna died in a Memphis hospital May 19 from head trauma. Family members claimed she fell from a shopping cart in a Memphis store.

Ramon Barreto, 29, and Janet Killough Barreto, 36, described as Enna's adoptive parents, are still in the Union County Jail on seven counts of child endangerment. In addition to Enna, they are parents to Mrs. Barreto's 17-year-old daughter Marina Torres, a young child of their own and six other "adopted" children from kindergarten-age to 2.

Their attorney, Tony Farese of Ashland, said last week he expected to request a hearing to reduce their bail, set at $50,000 per count each. That hearing has not yet been set. He insisted his clients had nothing to do with the child's death.

Farese also said he expected charges to be brought against the 17-year-old. Union County Investigator Roger Garner said Monday it's possible the scope of the case may expand, but how that may occur and who it will involve hasn't been determined yet.

District Attorney Ben Creekmore has said there's still a lot of work to do before the direction of the case becomes clearer.

Immediately after the child's death, Sheriff Tommy Wilhite said most of the young children were from Guatemala and the nationalities of the others were not clear.

That's where the federal agencies come in.

Agencies have questions
Garner said the Marshals Service wants to determine the immigration status of individuals under investigation or related to the case.

And where these children came from, how they got to the U.S. and their legal status also is the focus of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

"I promised Enna at that hospital that I would find out who did this to her," Garner said Monday.

She died at Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center in Memphis, where suspicious doctors called in law enforcement.

When Union County investigators went to the Barreto home at 824 County Road 87 after the child's death, they found a scene of filth and chaos inside the doublewide and singlewide trailers connected by a hallway. Behind the residence, they found scores of maltreated dogs apparently kept in squalor to breed and support a puppy mill operation.

The animals were turned over to the Tupelo-Lee Humane Society.

The conditions led to the child endangerment charges against the Barretos.

The young children were put into the custody of the Mississippi Department of Human Services. Marina Torres reportedly is in the custody of a legal guardian.

Monday, DHS spokesman Julia Bryan said the children are doing very well in safe environments, although privacy restrictions prevent her from saying any more or whether they are together. Garner confirmed they are doing well.

He also said the incident in which Enna allegedly fell from the shopping cart was reported to have occurred in Babies R Us at 3525 Riverdale Road. Attempts on Monday to contact the store manager to ask about the report were not successful.

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

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