Search for Missing Union County Couple Goes Nationwide
A nationwide manhunt is underway for a Union County couple accused in the death of one of their children.
New Albany, MS - FAST FACTS:
Couple Facing 10 Count Indictment
Failed to Show Up For Two Court Hearings
Nationwide Manhunt Underway
(Union County, MS 6/9/2009) A nationwide manhunt is underway for a Union County couple accused in the death of one of their children.
Janet and Ramon Barreto face felony child abuse and neglect charges on all their children, and manslaughter in the death of their two-year-old.
Union County Deputies suspected they had a problem when Janet Barreto didn't show up for a recent court date.
When neither showed up for another on Monday, they knew the couple had flown the coop. "They're out on a $900,000 bond and they've just fled the jurisdiction of the court. We've talked to family, interviewed family, friends, nobody knows a thing," said Union County Chief Deputy Jimmy Edwards.
He says they could have run as far as Mexico, though he suspects they're closer. "They were last seen in the Memphis area April 27th. Ramon has brothers there, some cousins, and were last seen in the Memphis area."
Since their arrest, Janet had given birth to another baby, making for nine children, 7 adopted from South America.
The family had run a huge puppy mill at their home, which investigators said was in deplorable condition from a health standpoint.
The couple had claimed their two-year-old, Ena had fallen from a shopping cart on a trip to Memphis, causing her death.
Investigation revealed 17-year-old, Marainna Torres, who's now 18, got angry with the child and hit her in anger, causing her death.
Torres, admitted guilt in the case and awaits sentencing.
Meantime, the Barreto home sits abandoned.
Investigators say the couple vanished without a trace leaving behind their children who remain in state custody.
The first sign of their disappearance came when Janet Barreto failed to show up in court on a charge she threatened the young woman, earning a witness tampering charge.
That caused the couple's attorney to bow out since the new charge put Janet and Ramon on opposing sides.
It also made it impossible for the court to take further action in the case, including finding them guilty in absentia, since they have no representation.
The Barretos apparently felt it the new charge made for a no-win situation.
But District Attorney Ben Creekmore, says life as a fugitive won't be much better, "It's gonna be hard to live on the run and I think eventually it'll catch up to 'em."
One phone call, says Creekmore, will put them back behind bars for good, "It's just gonna take somebody looking and recognizing 'em and contacting law enforcement to get 'em back."
But until then, investigators say folks should keep their eyes open and their children close. "We don't' think they're dangerous to most people. They might be dangerous to children." said Edwards.
There's a reward in excess of $1,000 for information leading to the couple. Union County, US Marshals and US Immigration are all working together to find them.
If found and convicted, the couple could get fifty years, to life in prison.