DCF Reports: Barahona Investigator Mishandled Other Cases
Girl Found Dead In Truck Along I-95 Just Days After Report Of Abuse Made To Hotline
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- A Department of Children and Families employee who was assigned to investigate a report of abuse at the household where a 10-year-old girl was found dead in the back of her adoptive father's pest control truck on the side of Interstate 95 in West Palm Beach had a history of mishandling cases, DCF records revealed Thursday.
Last week, the girl was found dead in the truck and her twin brother was found doused in a chemical, badly burning him.
It's a horrific end to years of abuse and neglect that could have been going on inside the home of Jorge Barahona, who has been charged with aggravated child abuse and attempted murder in connection with his son's injuries.
The DCF has assigned an independent review panel to determine if the agency could have done a better job investigating the Barahona case after receiving a call on the abuse hotline just days before the gruesome discovery.
West Palm Beach police said Jorge Barahona admitted to putting his daughter's body in a bag and driving north on I-95, bringing the girl's twin brother with him.
According to the arrest report, Barahona said he pulled over just north of the Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard exit in West Palm Beach, gave his son some sleeping pills, poured gasoline over himself and intended to light himself on fire, but Barahona said he couldn't kill himself in front of his son.
"We have a terribly tragic loss of a child and damage to other children," said David Lawrence Jr., one of the independent review panelists. "If you can't learn something out of that tragedy -- or any tragedy -- shame on us."
Newly released DCF personnel files show it wouldn't be the first time Andrea Fleary, the DCF employee assigned to the Barahona case, mishandled a case.
According to the reports, Fleary was given a final counseling notice last year for failing to find a home for a child removed from the biological family by the 24-hour deadline established by DCF. The investigator wrote that Fleary's "neglect placed this child at risk of additional harm. Even more disturbing, you failed to document notification with the child protection team."
Leary refused to sign the notice and another notice from 2003.
In 2003, it took Fleary 11 days to interview the person who reported the abuse of six children, records state. She "failed to shelter a child despite knowing the child continued residing with the mother" against court orders, the reports stated. She also "permitted the children to visit with their maternal grandmother without proper authorization."
In 1992, Fleary was also given a written reprimand for punching a colleague in the face, the reports revealed.
Fleary is now on paid administrative leave.