Ramon Barreto’s brother was under arrest in Memphis this week, and federal authorities had hoped he would tell them the whereabouts of Union County fugitives Ramon and his wife, Janet.
They are wanted in the 2008 death of their 2-year-old adopted daughter, Ena. They also are accused of felony endangerment of their six other Guatemalan-born children and the torture of three of them.
But despite prosecutors’ objections, a federal judge ordered Juan Barreto-Ortiz set free on $10,000 bond after he pleaded not guilty to a May 13 indictment on one count of illegally entering and attempted entering of the U.S.
“The government states that they maintain their position is that no conditions will assure the appearance of the defendant,” read the minutes for the arraignment of Barreto-Ortiz, who apparently was released with an electronic ankle-bracelet monitor.
Jimmy Edwards, Union County chief deputy sheriff, expressed worried surprise at the news.
“Oh, my goodness,” he said.
Edwards has reason to worry.
Thirteen months ago, Janet and Ramon Barreto left their home near New Albany and haven’t been heard from since.
Edwards said U.S. marshals were tipped off that Barreto-Ortiz had been laughing about knowing where his brother is.
Now, although Barreto-Ortiz had not yet been released by late Thursday, Edwards isn’t so sure what will happen when he is.
But efforts continue to find the Barretos.
On Saturday night, the TV show “America’s Most Wanted” will try again to solicit tips about where the Barretos may be. Law enforcers speculate they are in Mexico, where Ramon has family.
Scott Sanders, interim U.S. marshal in Oxford, said two local marshals – Dennis Spencer and Gale Manning – are expected to be on the TV show set to take any calls about the Barretos. It airs at 8 p.m. on Fox.
AMW has aired programs twice about the Barretos in hopes of gaining enough information to capture them to return for trial in Union County.
Scott also said his office has asked that the Barretos be added to the Marshal Service’s Top 15 Most Wanted, a designation that will put more resources into finding them.
The new status also could put more pressure on Mexican officials “to make something happen,” Edwards noted.
Janet Barreto’s daughter, Marainna Torres, is serving a five-year prison sentence for her part in her adopted sister’s death in May 2008. At age 17, she admitted that after she spanked the child, on her mother’s orders, she threw her across her bedroom into a plywood-bottomed baby bed and Ena landed on her head.
“Go back there and beat her ass,” Torres said in relating her mother’s words about Ena.
“None of the kids had mattresses in their beds,” she told investigators in a transcribed interview obtained by the Daily Journal. “They would have plywood. And the rooms were, some of them were really dirty. There was dogs in the house. There were needles where my mom would, she would give her insulin and she would just leave them on the counter. There was medicine everywhere where the kids could get.”
Ena’s autopsy showed two distinct blows to the head. Torres admitted she dropped the child as they entered the house the night she died.
When law enforcement came to the County Road 87 home after Ena’s death, they were met with the sight of filth, insects, food and garbage, soiled diapers and animal feces throughout the residence. They also discovered a large puppy mill in the backyard.
Torres, now 19, told them her mother planned to “re-sell” some of the female children over the Internet or through adoption agencies.
Torres said she was the children’s main caregiver and snapped under the pressure when she killed Ena. She also said she was afraid of beatings by her mother and did what she was told.
“I knew I couldn’t go out and tell somebody. I was scared,” she said in the 72-minute interview.
Before the Barretos began adopting children from Guatemala in 2005, they apparently adopted a girl, Santanna, whom Torres said was kept in a dog pen in a closet. Their indictment states the child was caged “for prolonged periods of time” from 2000 until Feb. 8, 2006.
This child reportedly was re-adopted by a family friend. Torres said the girl “gets sexually molested,” but in the interview Investigator Roger Garner told her he took the girl away and put her with “a good family.”
“She’s safe,” he told Torres.
Investigators also asked Torres if Ramon Barreto ever did anything sexual to the children she tended.
“I was not with them every minute of every day,” she answered. “I’m not going to say he did because I never seen him do anything, but I’m not going to say that he didn’t because I don’t know because I wasn’t there.”
The day Ena died, Torres said she was especially irked by her mother’s behavior on the way to the hospital with the child.
“She was going slow so she could figure out what she was going to say,” Torres said.
Before deciding to go to the hospital, the couple discussed just putting the child in the septic tank and saying she had gone back to Guatemala.
“To say that they could just hit (hide) her and put her in a septic tank is what really showed me like what my mom really was.
“She had even told me to make it look good, to cry,” Torres added. “But I was crying because I loved that baby, not because I was told to cry because she was, most of the time, she was faking it.
“She was just worried about the baby in herself that she had had in her stomach, not that baby that was laying right there.”
Before the couple were bonded out of the Union County Jail in November 2008, Janet Barreto had that baby.
The Barretos wanted to give the baby to his brother, but since then, it has been adopted.
That’s the same brother who was ordered released on a $10,000 unsecured bond on house arrest this week.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662)
678-1596 or email@example.com.
- On FOX Network, 8 p.m. Saturday.
This is final part of the Barreto series:
Other stories from this series:
Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal