Harrowing details emerge in Barahona case

Date: 2012-02-06
Source: Sun Sentinel

Harrowing details emerge in Barahona case
Dead girl's twin brother tells caregiver of starvation, torture

By David Ovalle, The Miami Herald
11:26 p.m. EST, February 6, 2012

When he and his twin sister were bound by the wrists and ankles in the bathtub of their West Miami-Dade house, Victor Barahona's adopted father doused them with ice water or bleach.

A few times, Jorge Barahona wrapped a plastic bag around the 10-year-old boy's head, then choked him until he nearly passed out.

Another time, the elder Barahona glued the boy's eyes shut, and once made him eat a cockroach.

At mealtimes, Victor and his twin sister, Nubia, could eat only bread and milk, maybe once a week in the bathtub, while the other children in the home dined on shredded beef, rice and beans.

Any leftovers from the "good food" would go to the family's dog.

These are the memories of torture that Victor Barahona relayed to his caregiver in the months after the February 2011 arrest of his adopted parents, Jorge and Carmen Barahona.

The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office is seeking the death penalty against Jorge and Carmen Barahona, charged with murdering Nubia, 10, and torturing her twin brother. Prosecutors say the couple beat, starved and tortured the twins for months inside their West Miami-Dade home.

Nubia's decomposing body, soaked in chemicals, was discovered on Valentine's Day 2011 in the back of Jorge Barahona's pickup truck alongside Interstate 95 in West Palm Beach. Doused in chemicals, Victor was alive but badly injured.

Jorge Barahona was passed out nearby.

On Monday, Miami-Dade prosecutors released caregiver Katia Garcia's audio-recorded statement, in which she shared with investigators Victor's heartfelt and shocking account of the twins' treatment at the hands of their adopted father.

Garcia recalled Victor's attention to detail in sharing memories of his own abuse. But when it came to his slain sister, the boy was beset with agony.

"He stutters when he talks. He can't finish his sentences," Garcia told investigators in the June statement. "He has nervous twitches with his eyes. He had one with his mouth. He doesn't want to talk about what his sister went through."

Victor remained hospitalized for several weeks before moving in with Garcia under foster care. He has since been sent to live with an uncle in Texas. Prosecutors are not publicly releasing Victor's statements to police, so Garcia's statement offers the most vivid details of the alleged torture suffered by the twins inside the Barahona home.

In the months after the incident, the effects of Victor's ordeal were clear, Garcia told Miami-Dade detectives.

He had been so starved that he wolfed down food quickly in the beginning of his new life.

"He wouldn't eat with silverware," Garcia said. "He'd eat with his mouth open. He wouldn't wash his hands."

The memories of abuse trickled out slowly and spontaneously, triggered by mundane events.

Once, Victor noticed Garcia applying false eyelashes — and he recalled how his own fell out after Jorge Barahona glued the boy's eyes shut. Another time, Victor saw Garcia's husband filling a pitcher with ice and he remembered the icy dousings in the bathtub.

The narrative he built was calculated and cruel.

Victor did not relate any episodes of physical abuse specifically by Carmen Barahona, but noted that "she used to call him names ... every bad word I can think of," Garcia said.

Jorge Barahona — Victor always called him "my father" — called him names, too, but went beyond verbal abuse, according to Garcia's statement.

Victor showed her how he and Nubia would be hogtied or bound by the wrists and ankles, usually with rope, tape or wire. Often, he was forced to put his hands underneath his legs with his body contorted into a hunched twisted ball that left him barely able to walk when freed.

The father shaved his and Nubia's hair. Once, Jorge Barahona whipped him with a mop handle so wickedly that it left a large scar on his head. To this day, the boy is self-conscious about cutting his hair too short, lest the mark be visible, Garcia said.

A large scar on Victor's lip was a result of a punch from Jorge Barahona. His back, too, bore witness to whippings and even the edges of his mouth showed signs of a sock being tied around his lips to silence him.

Also, "his father used to pour hot sauce in his eyes, nose and mouth," Garcia said.

Jorge Barahona showed no affection for the twins, Victor told Garcia, and the boy could not fight back against the thickly built man.

His sister's condition haunted the boy. Victor recalled a big scab that covered nearly her entire forehead. He recalled Jorge Barahona dipping the girl's feet in "Clorox or Pine-Sol."

When Nubia disappeared, Jorge Barahona told him that she had moved away.

On his birthday — which was her birthday also — he "had a hard time" and cried several times, Garcia said.

Said Garcia: "He missed her and he thinks about her."

Jorge Barahona's attorney could not be reached for comment on Monday.

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