GRAPHIC WARNING: This story details graphic child abuse. Discretion is advised.
Five Florida inmates are facing new charges after beating up a man accused of torturing his step-daughter and step-son for years, before killing the girl and putting her chemical-soaked body in the back of his pickup truck, according to the Miami Herald.
Police say on March 1, the inmates tampered with a surveillance camera before jumping 53-year-old Jorge Barahona in his sleep. The accused child killer had multiple bruises on his face, a nosebleed and a cut on his nose, according to police.
The inmates charged with attacking Barahona are:Armando Verdecia, 21 years oldHakeem Drane, 24 years oldKlauss Moise, 20 years oldDevaun Spaulding, 27 years oldOscar Martinez, 29 years old
Jorge Barahona mugshot. (Dade County Jail)
Barahona is accused of torturing two twins he adopted; 10-year-old Nubia Barahona and her brother. The brother survived the abuse while his twin sister did not.
Authorities found Nubia's body on Feb. 14, 2011, in the back of her father's pickup truck. Nubia's body as well as the surviving twin, had both been soaked in chemicals.
Feb. 14, 2011 crime scene of Jorge Barahona's pickup truck where the body of his 10-year-old adopted daughter was found, doused with chemicals. (WPEC)
Jorge Barahona and his wife 69-year-old Carmen Barahona adopted the twins after fostering them. Carmen already pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse and is set to testify against Jorge at this trial, which had been delayed because of COVID-19.
The case was a major controversy for Florida's Department of Children & Families. The department received numerous abuse complaints about Jorge and Carmen Barahona, but little was done to protect the children. After a lawsuit, the state paid the surviving twin a $5 million settlement.
Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami said:
Diaz also said the Department of Children & Families “had many red flags they did not pay attention to."
The Florida Senate detailed the graphic and disturbing child abuse in a 2016 special master report, which stated:
"On February 14, 2011, [survivor] and [Nubia] were found in a pest control truck owned by their adoptive father, Jorge Barahona, along the side of I-95 in Palm Beach County. [Nubia] was dead, and [survivor] was severely injured and covered in chemicals. The adoptive parents, Jorge and Carmen Barahona, tortured the children in numerous ways, likely since gaining custody of them in 2004."
Nubia and her twin brother had troubled lives since birth. Their biological mother had substance abuse problems and was arrested for domestic violence when the kids were 2-years-old. The children were then placed in the custody of their biological father. Two years later, their father was charged with sexual battery against a minor not related to him. The children were removed from the home and placed in foster care with Jorge and Carmen Barahona in 2004.
That's despite the fact that the children's uncle in Texas sent a letter to the judge, telling him he and his wife wished to adopt the kids. The letter, in part, stated:
During a psychological examination done by Dr. Vanessa Archer concluded:
Dr. Archer was heavily criticized in the special report's findings, which are towards the end of this story.
The master report said:
There was evidence in 2004 that the children's medical needs were being neglected. They were 4 years old. The report stated: "The notes show that the nurse for Victim’s endocrinologist did not believe that Victim was in a good placement for two reasons. First, Victim had not been to an appointment in nearly a year when Victim needed to see the doctor three times a year. Second, Victim is sent to the doctor by herself, which shows that the foster mother does not care for Victim’s well-being. Apparently, the department or one of its contractors transported Victim to medical appointments."
In 2005, the first evidence of child sexual abuse surfaced, but investigators didn't believe the victim.
Investigators determined that Nubia's complaints about being molested were about her biological father and not the Barahonas, determining "that there were no further concerns about the Barahonas."
In 2006, the first abuse report from a school came out after a teacher noticed a "huge bruise" on Nubia's chin and neck. Nubia had also been absent 17 times. However, the department determined that Nubia's bruise was not from child abuse, but rather from her "hyperactivity."
The next year, the school principal reported more abuse to Florida's Central Abuse Hotline, and said:
For the past five months, [Nubia] has been smelling and appearing unkempt. At least 2 or 3 times a week, [Nubia] smells. She smells rotten. Her uniform is not clean and her shoes are dirty. On one occasion, [Nubia] got apple sauce in her hair, the next day she had apple sauce still in her hair. [Nubia] also appears unkempt. On 2/20/07, [Victim] had food in her backpack from breakfast and lunch. There is a concern that maybe she is not eating at home. [Nubia] is always hungry and she eats a lot at school. [Nubia] is afraid to talk."
After another investigation, the Department of Children & Families concluded: "At this time the risk level is low. No evidence was found to support the allegation of environmental hazards toward the children."
The final calls to Florida's child abuse hotline came on Feb. 10, 2011, four days before Nubia's body was found. The call came from a therapist for the Barahonas' niece.
The department took these notes during the call:
"2/10/11 2:22 PM Survivor and victim are tied by their hands and feet with tape and made to stay in bathtub all day and night as a form of punishment tape is taken off to ....RESPONSE TIME 24 HOURS -- Transcript of Hotline call: Grandmother cares for her and she has foster children who are being abused. They are being taped up w/their arms and legs and kept in a bathtub-all day and all night and she undoes their arms to eat and she has been threatened not to say anything."
The department's response stated:
"2/10/11 6:42 PM CPI to home NO CALL TO POLICE when kids not home. Accepts mother’s story that kids are with Foster Dad as they have separated."
During the police investigation into the Barahonas, staff with the Department of Children & Families said the Feb. 10 phone call was misclassified as one needing response "within 24 hours." The call "should have resulted in an immediate response," the special report says.
After doing its own review, the department concluded the the call "suggested criminal child abuse incidents requiring immediate response and outreach to law enforcement."
Dr. Eli Newberger, a pediatrician and an expert in matters relating to child abuse and neglect, testified about the abuse during the special master hearing of the report.
Dr. Newberger testified that the Barahonas abused the children in the following ways:Mr. Barahona put hot sauce in [survivor's]and Nubia's eyes, nose, ears, and private parts, both front and back.Mr. Barahona shoved a noisemaker in ear.Mr. Barahona made [survivor] and Nubia sleep in the bathtub with ice nearly every day for almost 3 years.The Barahonas tied [survivor] and Nubia's hands and feet together with tape.Mr. Barhahona would hit [survivor] with a shoe and a mop, hard enough to cause bleeding.Mr. Barahona punched [survivor] in the mouth which resulted in [survivor] having corrective surgery.Mr. Barahona would place a plastic bag at random times over [survivor] and Nubia's heads for as long as Mr. Barahona would like.Mr. Barahona would give electric shocks to Nubia for a minute at a time.Mr. Barahona had doused [survivor] with chemicals.[Survivor] had gone without eating in the Barahona home for as long as 3 days.Before Nubia had been found, Mr. Barhona gave [survivor] pills that caused [survivor] to have seizures.
[Survivor]told Dr. Newberger that at some point shortly before her death, Nubia had told him that she wanted to die because she couldn't take the abuse any longer.
The abuse continued to haunt the surviving twin, who is now in his 20s. The boy's aunt and uncle said that soon after he was placed with them, the surviving twin boy would wake up in the middle of the night "gasping for air in the middle of the night. He was having nightmares about bags being placed over his head."
The special report details Dr. Newberger's diagnosis of the surviving twin:
On Feb. 21, 2011, one week after Nubia's body was found and her brother was rescued, the "Secretary of the Department of Children and Families established an independent investigative panel to examine issues relating to the Barahonas," the report stated.
The findings of that investigation were detailed in the report in bullet points, quoted below.Dr. Archer failed to consider critical information about potential signs of abuse, making her reports incomplete.The case manager from Our Kids, the guardian ad litem, and the Children’s Legal Services attorney, as well as the judge, were, or should have been, aware of significant omissions in Dr. Archer’s reports but failed to take any serious steps to correct the critical flaws.There was no centralized system to ensure the dissemination of critical information to all parties overseeing the care of survivor and victim.The guardian ad litem, school personnel, and a nurse practitioner raised serious concerns that should have required “intense and coordinated follow-up.”There was no person serving as the “system integrator” who ensured that relevant information, including allegations of abuse, was shared and made accessible to others.There is evidence of multiple instances in which the Barahonas did not ensure the health of survivor and victim.During the hearings before the panel, the actions and testimony of the Chief Executive Officers of Our Kids and the Center for Family and Child Enrichment “created suspicions as to what, if anything, they were trying to hide.”Post-adoption services should have been identified by Our Kids after a post-adoption call to the Hotline in June 2010.Much of the necessary information raising red flags about the Barahonas was present within the system, but the individuals involved relied on inadequate technology instead of talking to each other.