Daughter of Mississippi 'child collectors' breaks silence
By Michael Clark
MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Janet and Ramon Barreto were two of America's most wanted fugitives. The couple was on the run for five years after they were charged with the death of one of their adopted daughters.
Marainna Torres, Janet Barreto's biological daughter, served time for her parents' crime. Torres broke down in tears when asked about the death of her 2-year-old adopted sister, Ena.
"I'm sorry. She didn't deserve anything like that," said Torres. "I wish that she could have the life that the other children have."
Torres was 14 years old when her mother and stepfather began purchasing children from a Guatemalan adoption agency.
"I thought everything was going to be alright, and then she kept going on and adopting one after the other, and things started getting worse," Torres recalled.
Janet and Ramon Barreto adopted eight children overall. Investigators say the couple abused and tortured the kids inside a trailer in Union County, Mississippi.
One child was kept in a dog crate. Babies slept on plywood.
"There was times that she tied them up, duct taped where they couldn't move," said Torres. "He gave them hot sauce, I guess that was his way of punishment."
Torres recalled the abuse of one brother, whom her parents nearly drowned.
"He would take him outside and he would punish him by dunking him in water and holding him under," said Torres.
By the time she was 17, Torres dropped out of high school and was in charge of her siblings.
She says the day her sister died, the toddler had been crying for hours.
"I was told to go back there and make her be quiet," Torres said. "I spanked her and then I threw her in her bed and she hit her head. Up to that point, they had already said that she had already had trauma, so it just made it worse."
Ena died at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital.
Authorities suspected long-term abuse of the child and removed the other children from the Barretos' home. They then charged Torres, and her parents, with manslaughter.
"They actually told me that I was the flight risk and it actually turned out to be the other way around," said Torres.
Once she pleaded guilty to manslaughter and began serving time behind bars, Torres' parents took off.
Janet and Ramon Barreto hid from authorities for five years until U.S. Marshals captured the couple in Oregon last summer and brought them back to Mississippi.
"For a long time, I always thought that they would find her [Janet] because they were a lot smarter than she was because of them being who they were and their training and all that, and she beat them every time, except for this last time," said Torres.
Janet Barreto pleaded guilty to manslaughter of a child, three counts of child abuse, and six counts of child neglect. She died in prison just three months into her 25 year sentence.
"It hurts," confessed Torres. "Regardless of the things she's done to me or my brothers and sisters, it's still hard because she's the one who gave birth to me and I can't never change who my mother is."
Janet Barreto never told her biological daughter why she adopted so many children.
"I know that's the biggest question that people keep asking, but I've never got the answer to it," said Torres.
It's now up to Ramon Barreto to reveal a motive for the madness that destroyed so many young lives.
As for Marainna Torres, she's working to recover from the horrors she's seen and the guilt she feels about her involvement in her little sister's death.
Torres said, "I don't think I'll ever have complete peace with what happened, but I'm working on it day by day."