Father charged with attempted murder in injuries to adoptive son
As a new charge was made against Jorge Barahona, the state’s top child welfare administrator addressed the grisly death of a twin as the girl’s adoptive father was given $1 million bail for abusing her brother.
BY CAROL MARBIN MILLER AND DIANA MOSKOVITZ
The father at the center of one of the state’s most ghastly child abuse scandals was charged with attempted murder late Thursday night for the critical injuries sustained by one his two 10-year-old adoptive twins – a boy found doused with chemicals inside a pick-up off Interstate 95, West Palm Beach police said.
The new charge against Jorge Barahona, 53, of Miami-Dade, negated a $1 million bail set earlier in the day for the father being held at the Palm Beach County Jail.
He is now being held without bond, according to jail website records.
Police said that at the same time, detectives were expected to execute a search warrant during the night at the Barahonas’ home, where the twins were said to have been tortured. And Barahona’s wife, Carmen, was with Miami-Dade police Thursday night.
“She is with us,’’ confirmed police spokesman Det. Roy Rutland. “She went voluntarily because we needed some information.’’
Jorge Barahona has not been charged in the death of another twin, Nubia, whose body was found in a bag inside the same truck as the boy.
These charges are related to the son, said West Palm Beach police spokesman Chase Scott.
Barahona is charged in an incident Monday that left his son, Victor, struggling for life in the cab of his red pickup. The boy had been doused with unidentified chemicals and suffered such severe burns that doctors placed him on a respirator and transferred him to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s burn unit.
Victor’s twin sister, Nubia, was found dead in the pickup’s flatbed, stuffed in a bag and awash in chemicals that were originally described as acid. An autopsy has been completed and the results were turned over to detectives, according to Scott.
Detectives declined to release the findings.
Lisette Valdes-Valle, a DCF spokeswoman, said late Thursday that Victor’s condition was improving and that agency administrators planned to visit the boy later that night.
Nubia’s death occurred four days after the Department of Children & Families’ abuse hotline received a report that the twins were being bound hand-and-foot and made to stand for hours in a bathtub.
When a road ranger spotted Barahona’s pickup truck on the shoulder of Interstate 95 in West Palm Beach, the children had yet to be seen by an investigator.
By then, one was dead and the other was drenched in toxic chemicals.
DCF’s top administrator — on the job for less than a month when one of DCF’s worst scandals in recent memory erupted — flew from Tallahassee to Miami Thursday to answer questions about his agency’s handling of the case.
Secretary David Wilkins met with reporters and stuck to his message: It won’t be known whether agency lapses contributed to Nubia’s death until after a thorough investigation.
The investigation, Wilkins said, would include every aspect of the Barahonas’ involvement in the state’s child welfare system, including the couple’s 10-year-history as foster parents, their now-controversial adoption of four foster kids — some of whom had significant special needs — the agency’s handling of several calls to the state’s abuse hotline and the tragic events of the last week.
“That’s what the management review has to look at,’’ Wilkins said.
When asked whether his agency should be held accountable for the girl’s death, Wilkins answered, “We all feel responsible. The community feels responsible. We have an obligation to help kids who need help.’’
The agency’s preliminary findings, Wilkins said, suggest the Barahonas thwarted attempts to investigate their actions by deceiving caseworkers and investigators — perhaps for several years. Last week, as an agency investigator sought to find Victor and Nubia, Barahona’s wife, Carmen, said she did not know where either her husband, from whom she had separated, or the children were staying. DCF administrators said those statements were “lies.’’
“The parents,’’ Wilkins said, “were deceiving the system for quite a long time.’’
Early Thursday, Wilkins released a statement. in which he expressed sadness over Nubia’s death and the abuse suffered by both twins.
“Words alone cannot express the personal sorrow each department employee feels when any child in any situation dies,’’ Wilkins said. “I know I speak for all department employees when I share our pain and condolences for this senseless loss of life.’’
Throughout the day Thursday, police continued to analyze the toxic stew inside Barahona’s truck, which was painted with the name of a pest control business that he had failed to re-register with the state this year.
The chemically soaked truck was moved from the side of I-95 to a secure FBI facility, Scott said. The federal agency’s expertise was needed, he said, due to the complex nature of the chemicals that flooded the pickup.
Miami Herald staff writer Luisa Yanez contributed to this report.
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