By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
A federal manhunt continues in southeast Los Angeles County for two Union County fugitives accused of crimes associated with the death of their 2-year-old adopted daughter.
“We believe we are within 72 hours of them,” said Tony Burke of the U.S. Marshals Service to reporters Wednesday during an intensive search in a largely Hispanic neighborhood for Janet and Ramon Barreto.
The pair reportedly were seen as recently as last weekend in Maywood, Calif., and other nearby cities selling items and living out of a car and friends’ homes.
A team of north Mississippi marshals was dispatched to California earlier this week, including Deputy U.S. Marshal Chris Felix of Oxford, supervisor for North Mississippi’s Fugitive Task Force.
“We’re here in an advisory role, helping the California marshals in whatever way we can,” Felix said late Wednesday. “We’re getting a tremendous amount of help.”
A command post was established in the area to respond to calls about the fugitive couple, he said.
Law enforcement officials continued their door-to-door search Wednesday.
Union County and regional authorities began searching for the Barretos in May 2009 shortly after they had made bail on some 10 charges, including the manslaughter of a child, child abuse and child neglect. Janet Barreto also was accused of witness tampering when she allegedly threatened her teenage daughter to lie to investigators about the child’s death.
Enna Barreto, whom the couple adopted with several other children from Guatemala, died of massive trauma in May 2008 reportedly after punishment for extended crying.
Janet Barreto recently was added to the U.S. Marshals Top 15 Fugitives list with a $25,000 reward for information leading directly to her arrest.
When Union County authorities entered their home outside New Albany five years ago, they found deplorable living conditions within two connected trailers and a squalid puppy mill in the backyard.
Court testimony stated that the children allegedly were punished with beatings and occasionally duct-taped to their beds, punched in the stomach and forced to endure having their heads submerged under water.
The children were taken into custody of the Department of Human Services and later were adopted into area families.
Animal rescue organizations took control of the dogs, although many had to be euthanized.
Anyone with information about the Barretos is urged to contact the nearest U.S. Marshals office or the U.S. Marshals Service Communications Center at (800) 336-0102.