‘Most Wanted’ joins hunt for Union couple

NEW ALBANY – Law enforcement hopes the popular TV show “America’s Most Wanted” will help them find Janet and Ramon Barreto, who apparently slipped away from Union County to evade charges surrounding the 2008 death of their adopted daughter.
The show, which was filmed in Union County in mid-summer, will air in November, said Diana Nolan, associate producer at “America’s Most Wanted.” She said show personnel may return to Union County to film a re-enactment.
Authorities say the Barretos, who were out of jail on $450,000 bond each, could have gone to Mexico, where Ramon has family. But U.S. Marshal Gale Manning said no new information has surfaced on the couple.
“America’s Most Wanted” began 22 years ago by John Walsh, after his 6-year-old son was abducted and murdered. It airs at 8 p.m. Saturdays on Fox Network and features stories about unsolved crimes and wanted fugitives.
The show’s staff learned of the Barreto case and approached Union County officials about featuring it in one of the episodes.
Janet, who will be 38 on Friday, and Ramon, 31, were indicted on 10 counts, including six charges of child neglect or endangerment, three charges of felony child abuse and one of manslaughter by culpable negligence.
Their trial was first set for the March circuit court term, but it was delayed by discussions about a possible plea deal. On May 6, they were discovered gone from their doublewide mobile home just outside New Albany.
District Attorney Ben Creekmore said law enforcement has fielded numerous “sighting” reports, but nothing has panned out.
The Barretos adopted seven infants, believed to be from Guatemala. Two-year-old Ena, one of those children, died of severe head and lower body trauma May 19, 2008, after their stepsister, Marainna Torres, struck her and threw her into a baby bed in their home at 824 County Road 87.
Torres, 18, allegedly was forced by her mother to care for the family’s numerous young children.
She remains in the Union County Jail awaiting sentence after her July 2008 guilty plea to manslaughter by culpable negligence.
Prosecutors say she has cooperated on the case against her mother and stepfather. At her plea hearing, she told Judge Andrew Howorth she hoped for leniency by pleading guilty. She faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.
The Barretos’ legal situation changed in the spring when Janet reportedly made a threatening telephone call to Torres, in jail after she admitted she killed Ena in a fit of rage. A grand jury then indicted Janet on a charge of tampering with a witness.
If convicted, the couple faces up to 50 years in the manslaughter and neglect charges, and 20 years to life on the child abuse charges. Janet Barreto could face additional time on the threat charge.
The Barretos did not take any of their children with them. Those not in protective custody of the Mississippi Department of Human Services have been privately adopted.
A reward is offered for information leading to their arrest.
Wednesday, Creekmore said he feels “kind of torn” about Torres’ situation – he knows she should be sentenced, but the plan has been to wait for her testimony or other cooperation in the Barretos’ case before recommending a sentence to the trial judge.
“Every day, we get closer and closer to the Barretos coming back,” Creekmore said.

Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.

Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal