MIAMI (CBS4) – Prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty against Jorge and Carmen Barahona who are accused of torturing two of their adopted children and killing their adopted daughter 10-year old Nubia.
Originally the Barahonas had been charged with first degree murder in the death of Nubia and seven counts each of aggravated child abuse and neglect for their treatment of her and her twin brother Victor. Last week they were indicted by a grand jury which brought three more charges including a new count of neglect involving another of the couple’s adopted children, an 11-year old boy.
The couple was formally arraigned Monday before Judge Sarah Zabel, both pled not guilty. In the courtroom, Jorge Barahona was wearing a green padded gown worn by prisoners on suicide watch. Both Carmen and Jorge Barahona had tried to waive this appearance, but Judge Zabel wanted them present so prosecutor Gail Levine could announce the state’s decision concerning the death penalty in front of them.
The decision was not unexpected. Three weeks ago, when additional charges were added in this case, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle told CBS4’s Gary Nelson, “If there ever was a case for the death penalty, it would be this one.”
Carmen Barahona stared silently during the announcement while her husband shed tears; his public defender described him as emotionally unstable.
Also in attendance at the hearing was Joanne Muniz who said she came to represent Nubia who used to go to Blue Lakes Elementary School with her son.
“It’s horrible, it’s horrible,” said Muniz. “It’s terrible I was thinking I’m sitting in a court room waiting to see two people to come out, and waiting to hear what they’ve been charged with, people who have done something terrible to a child.”
Muniz told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, “I’m here for her, Nubia. It’s important to remember the children who are at the core of this case. The children who are no longer here. I think in future we have to be more vigilant to prevent something from happening and even stay in touch with school administrators too.”
Muniz said the Barahonas “look aged in court. They have a very frail look.”
The Barahonas will likely remain behind bars until their trials because the murder charges against them carry no bond. A trial date of July 18th has been set.
According to Miami-Dade investigators the Barahonas beat Nubia to death in their home after a long history of abuse of both of her and her brother Victor. They often bound the children hand and foot, police claim, and forced them to sit in a bathtub for days on end.
In addition to the charges in Miami-Dade, Jorge Barahona has also been charged with attempted murder in Palm Beach County.
Last Valentine’s Day he was found in the front seat of his truck parked along I-95 in West Palm Beach along with Victor who was having a seizure. Police said the boy was suffering from severe chemical burns. In the back of the truck investigators found the decomposing body of Nubia.
The abuse of the twins was overlooked by caseworkers for the Department of Children and Families, despite a number of warning events. This prompted a blue-ribbon panel investigation, and a promise by DCF to change a number of procedures to help prevent cases like the Barahonas’ from falling through the cracks.
Victor and two other children adopted by the Barahonas have been placed in foster care.
Barahona’s attempted murder trial in Palm Beach County is set for January 30th, 2012.