Police: Father says body in truck is his daughter's

Date: 2011-02-16
Source: cnn.com

By: Kim Segal

(CNN) -- A Florida father has told police that a body found in the pest control truck he was driving is that of his daughter, authorities said Wednesday.

Jorge Barahona, 53, already faces a charge of aggravated child abuse for injuries to his son, who was found with him in the truck on the side of I-95 near West Palm Beach, officials said.

According to a probable cause affidavit filed by the West Palm Beach Police Department, a roadside assistance ranger with the Florida Department of Transportation stopped to check the red Toyota pickup Monday around 5:30 a.m. and found a 10-year-old boy inside, next to an open gas can.

The child "appeared to be in respiratory distress and (was) trembling" and his clothing "was soaked with an unknown chemical," the affidavit said.

The ranger found Barahona on the ground beside the truck and called for help.

After Barahona and his son were transported to a hospital, a worker decontaminating the truck discovered a plastic bag containing what was later determined to be a human body, the document said.

Barahona and his wife are the parents of four children adopted from Florida's foster care system, including the boy in the hospital, according to Florida Department of Children and Families spokesman Mark Riordan.

The boy is hospitalized in the intensive care unit with severe burns to his abdomen, upper thighs and buttocks, the affidavit said. While examining him, doctors also noted previous injuries to the boy, including a broken collarbone, a broken arm, scarring to his buttocks and lower abdomen and ligature marks on both wrists, police said.
Barahona told police he was distraught over the death of his daughter, and he intended to commit suicide by dousing himself with gasoline and setting himself on fire, the affidavit said. There was no mention in the affidavit of how his daughter died. Barahona said he didn't go through with his suicide plan because his son was with him, the document added.

At a hearing Wednesday in Miami to determine where the other two children of Barahona and his wife would be placed, officials said the girl found dead in the truck was the twin of the 10-year-old boy who is hospitalized.

Barahona will likely face other charges in the "complicated investigation," West Palm Beach Police spokesman Chase Scott said.

The boy suffered burns and injuries from inhaling unknown contaminants, Scott said, and authorities said in court Wednesday his skin is still being consumed by the substance that was on it.

"He is in a difficult medical condition" and is in isolation, Scott said.

Police don't know how long father and son were exposed to what Scott called "incredibly toxic chemicals" -- so potent that staff caring for the boy at the hospital became ill as well, he said.

The FBI is examining the truck and took samples of the chemicals, Scott said.

Neighbors of Barahona told reporters that he is an exterminator.

The Florida Department of Children and Families opened a child protection investigation within the past few days to look into a complaint involving the Barahona family, said Riordan, and it wasn't the first.

"Several times we've been out to the home," he said, but would not elaborate on the nature of the complaint in the current case.

At the hearing in Miami, a judge ordered that the remaining two children in the home be placed in foster care with the state.

Reporters in the courtroom Wednesday heard tales of abuse, mainly of the twins, from state officials and experts. The caller to the child protection hot line in the latest case reported that the twins were routinely locked in a bathroom for long periods and were bound, the court heard. The story was corroborated by interviews with the other two children in the home, officials said in court.

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