Police called to Barahona home 16 times since 1996
By JOHN LANTIGUA AND MICHAEL LAFORGIA
Police officers were called to the West Miami house of Jorge Barahona - the man accused of trying to murder his 10-year-old son by dousing the boy with corrosive chemicals - an average of about once a year between 1996 and Monday, to investigate reports of sick or injured people, assault and other claims, records show.
The latest visit, on Monday, stemmed from the discovery in West Palm Beach of Barahona, his adoptive son, whom police say he tried to kill with toxic chemicals, and the boy's twin sister, who lay dead and shrouded in a black garbage bag in Barahona's pickup bed.
Before that happened, before Barahona was hauled off to jail, where he tried to smash his skull against the hard floor of his cell, the 53-year-old exterminator and his wife, Carmen, adopted four children out of foster care.
The couple, who married in 1996, took responsibility for 10-year-old Nubia, whose decomposed body now lies at the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner's Office; her brother, Victor, who remained in critical condition Friday, recovering from severe chemical burns at Jackson Memorial Hospital; and two other young kids between 2001 and 2009, state officials said.
In the years leading up to and spanning that period, Miami-Dade Police officers were called to their home at 11501 Southwest 47th Terrace 16 times, including twice between January 2006 and October 2007 to investigate claims of sick or injured people, records show.
No police reports were generated to reflect the reasons for those two calls. Reports written by officers investigating two claims of assault, in March and October of 1997, weren't available Friday. In October 2009, officers were called to conduct an investigation at the Barahona home but didn't write a report about the incident.
Officials with the Department of Children and Families in Miami said this week the agency investigated four complaints about the parents' treatment of their adoptive children.
The most recent complaint, by a child therapist who spoke to the Barahonas' granddaughter, Alessandra, came on Thursday, four days before Barahona and the burned boy and the dead girl were found in West Palm Beach. The therapist called DCF's abuse hotline and reported the Alessandra's account of torture and abuse at her grandparents' house, saying children were locked in a bathroom or forced to stand in garbage bins.
By Monday, it was too late for Nubia, and nearly too late for Victor.
In a partial admission from a hospital bed, Barahona on Tuesday told West Palm Beach detectives he became "distraught" after Nubia died - he wouldn't say how - loaded the girl into his exterminator truck, herded the boy into the cab with him and drove north. He said he fed the boy sleeping pills, pulled off Interstate 95 between Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard and 45th Street and then doused himself with gasoline, intending to die by fire.
Detectives didn't buy the story, noting Victor's scars and broken bones, and arrested him on an aggravated child abuse charge. Late Thursday, they tacked on an attempted murder charge to the allegations against him.
As an administrative review of DCF's handling of the case continued Friday, Barahona remained in jail, where a judge ordered him held without bail.
A circuit judge on Wednesday removed the Barahonas' remaining adopted children from the custody of Carmen, 60, who also likely will face charges, officials said.
On Tuesday, Alessandra's father, Yovani Perez, who divorced her mother in 2006 and agreed then to share access to the girl, got an emergency order from a family court judge to take Alessandra into his custody. In a hearing on Friday, the judge ruled that Alessandra should remain with her father and ordered the mother, Jennifer Perez, the Barahonas' daughter, to keep away from the child pending further court orders.
"He started hearing from his daughter that all these strange things were happening, horrific things," said Yovani Perez' attorney, Jennifer Sardina. "He was just appalled that the mother would have the horrible judgment to leave her daughter in such a situation."
DCF on Tuesday will bring the case to dependency court, where a judge will decide whether to strip Alessandra's mother of her parental rights.