MIAMI (CBS4) — An independent panel of child welfare experts appointed to determine what went wrong in the state’s efforts to protect Victor and Nubia Barahona will meet Friday for the first time.
The three member panel, which was put together by the Department of Children and Families, will hold a public meeting Friday afternoon to dig deeper into the Barahona case. DCF Secretary David Wilkins called for a management review of the circumstances that led to death of 10-year-old Nubia and critical injuries to her twin brother, Victor.
Child welfare officials have said Jorge and Carmen Barahona, who adopted the twins out of foster care in 2008, had been the subject of three abuse investigations in the past few years and most recently are accused of tying the twins’ hands and feet together and locking them in a bathroom.
The three member panel is made of three men. They are David Lawrence Jr., a former Miami Herald publisher and head of the Children’s Movement of Florida who led a blue ribbon panel that looked into the early 2000s disappearance of Rilya Wilson. Jim Sewell, a Department of Children & Families manager who led the 2009 review into the death of Gabriel Myers, and Bobby Martinez, a former top federal prosecutor in Miami.
Wilkins said the management review will eliminate the need for “second-guessing and finger pointing.” He also said he intends the review to be “thorough’’ and finished by March 11.
Wednesday afternoon, investigators from both the Miami-Dade Police and West Palm Beach Police Departments, spent hours at the family’s Southwest Miami-Dade home searching for evidence. They dug up a corner of the backyard and opened what appeared to be an old septic tank.
A law enforcement source told CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald the search was initiated after a neighbor told police of a foul odor that enveloped the home for several weeks. The search did not turn up significant evidence, the source told the Herald.
That neighbor also spoke to CBS4 News and said he’d been smelling an odor “since before Christmas.”
“It smelled like something was dead,” the neighbor said. “I thought something had died in the attic or in the wall or something. But it just stayed right in my bathroom, mainly coming out of the drain of the tub.”
Then one day before the truck was discovered in West Palm Beach, things changed.
“The smell disappeared that Sunday before they found his truck on the side of the road,” the neighbor said. “We haven’t had the smell since. It was just a dead carcass smell.”
Jorge Barahona is charged with attempted first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse for allegedly pouring chemicals on his son, Victor, the same day that Nubia’s body was found in the pickup’s flatbed dead, stuffed in a bag and steeped in unknown chemicals. Authorities have yet to disclose the cause of Nubia’s death.
Victor continues to recover at Jackson Memorial Hospital’s burn unit. However, health department physician Walter Lambert told a Miami-Dade family court judge Wednesday that Victor may be discharged from the hospital on Friday.