MIAMI (CBS4) – Pictures from inside the Barahona home, a so-called house of horror, where police say Jorge and Carmen Barahona tortured and abused two adopted children.
One of the kids, 10-year-old Nubia, ended up dead in the back of Jorge Barahona’s truck.
If you look closely at the photographs, you can see the same religious icons in every room of the house, even in the kids’ rooms.
Most prominent, a photo of the Shroud of Turin, a linen cloth said to have covered the body of a crucified man. Many believe it’s the face of Jesus marked by blood.
“The image of the Shroud of Turin, which is really bloody, is important in terms of the degree of morbidity in the minds of this couple,” explained Daniel Alvarez, Professor of Religious Studies at Florida International University.
Alvarez examined the Barahona images with CBS4’s Gio Benitez.
He told Benitez that some people become fascinated with the idea of sacrifice, no matter the religion.
“They associate suffering, and blood, and dying with something redemptive and valuable in itself,” said Alvarez.
The professor also noticed a photo of the barricaded front doors, where, under the wooden bar, an image of the Virgin Mary is visible above the doors, the words “With God all things are possible.”
Professor Alvarez wondered if the Barahonas believed they were keeping out evil forces by displaying icons.
“I know this sounds incredible, perhaps, to the viewers, but that’s what happens when the psychology of religion gets explored, and religion goes off the deep end,” explained Alvarez.
But it’s not just what’s on the walls. In family photos obtained by investigators, the children, and even the Barahonas all make the same hand gesture.
“The point is this: this is not spontaneous,” declared Dr. Harley Stock, a forensic psychologist. “These kids have been programmed to send a message that so far, nobody can interpret, except the parents.”
Though nobody knows exactly what it (the gesture) is, Professor Alvarez has an idea.
“Some of the research I did points to a symbol in the Serbian Orthodox Church, a branch of the Eastern church. It’s supposed to be the trinity,” Alvarez told Benitez. “A belief that the father, the son, and the holy ghost are one. They’re following orders, they’re following structure, they’re letting them know, we’re submissive, we’re obeying you, we’re under your thumb.”
“It’s to establish control over those kids,” said Dr. Stock.
“This is how you show, you not only respect me, but you submit to my authority, and you’re holding the right beliefs. you have the right view of the world, and we’re giving it to you, and if you deviate from that view, there’s going to be hell to pay,” said FIU’s Alvarez.
Both experts said the images themselves aren’t necessarily strange, there are perfectly normal families with the same icons in their homes.
But Professor Alvarez indicated that what could be dangerous, is the Barahona’s own interpretation of their religion.
Jorge and Carmen Barahona are locked up awaiting trial. They have both been charged with murder and aggravated child abuse.