MIAMI (CBS4) – There is relief for a young boy at the center of a family tragedy that rocked South Florida. Victor Barahona, whose adoptive father is accused of killing his twin sister, Nubia, and trying to kill him will be allowed to live with his uncle in Texas.
A judge ruled Friday that Victor who has been at the center of a judicial tug-of-war, can be returned to Texas to live with extended family.
Over the past three days, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Maria Sampedro-Iglesia conducted a hearing to determine who should get custody of the now-11-year-old survivor of a harrowing, years-long ordeal in the adoptive home of Carmen and Jorge Barahona, the couple charged with killing his twin sister Nubia and torturing him. State child welfare authorities wanted Victor’s uncle to adopt the boy and raise him in Texas, where Victor has a large extended family eager to embrace him.
However, the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office objected because prosecutors feared Victor’s uncle may refuse to return the boy to Miami to testify against the Barahonas when they are tried for aggravated child abuse and first-degree murder. The couple has pleaded innocent.
Prior to the judge’s decision, child advocate David Lawrence, who served on a panel that investigated Nubia’s death was very concerned about the latest developments in Victor’s custody case.
“I’m very concerned,” Lawrence told CBS4 Chief I-Team reporter Michele Gillen. “I hope to God folks do the right thing, which is to do right by the child.”
Victor’s biological uncle Isidro Reyes, who lives in Texas has been attempting to adopt Victor. Victor reportedly has spent much of the summer with Reyes and his wife who is the sister of Victor’s biological mother.
“There’s an extended family in Texas, that’s the place for him,” said Lawrence. “That’s where he says he wants to be.”
DCF Secretary David Wilkins told Gillen in a recent interview that Victor’s progress toward healing has been nothing short of miraculous.
“Well Victor’s doing well. I’m pleased. I think everyone is pleased. Kids are resilient and uh he’s made good physical progress, mental progress and you know I think he’s got a good future in front of him,” said Wilkins.
There’s no reason, according to Lawrence, why Victor can’t testify at the Barahona’s trial.
“I assume he will have a role in the capital case but he can come back,” said Lawrence. “Let him have a life, please.”
Victor is the survivor of an infamous tragedy and his sister’s short life has impacted Wilkins greatly.
“I still have Nubia’s picture in my office so you know any day I get too proud of what I’m doing all I have to do is sort of turnaround at my desk and you know I see what happened to her and the horrific situation and we’ve got to do better.”
This horrific family tragedy began to unfold on Valentine’s Day 2011 when 10-year-old Nubia Barahona’s chemical-drenched body was found in the bed of her adoptive father’s pick-up truck along I-95 in West Palm Beach. Victor was in the front seat, saturated with toxic chemicals.
Nubia and Victor were adopted by the Barahonas in 2009 after living in their home since 2004. The kids, authorities discovered, had endured starvation, beatings, medical neglect and they had been tied and forced to stay in a bathtub.
Months later and with a growing chorus among child advocates that Victor belongs in Texas, Judge Maria Sampedro-Iglesia ordered the child to be returned to his uncle where he can start a new school year with his new family. It’s a decision expected to bring a smile to the face of a child who has so long had to cope with tragedy.