New novel resurrects unsettled Barreto saga

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

Janet and Ramon Barreto may still be long gone from prosecution in Union County, but they’re back within the cover of Oxford novelist Ace Atkins’ new book.
The Barretos escaped house arrest in late spring of 2009, likely for Mexico, and authorities continue to say they hope they’ll be brought to justice.
Janet, 40, and Ramon, 32, lived under the radar just outside New Albany in 2008 when the questionable death of their 2-year-old adopted daughter brought a swarm of scrutiny to their mobile home.
There, investigators discovered squalid living conditions with seven adopted children, all but one under the age of 4, coupled with a filthy puppy mill in their back yard.
Janet’s biological daughter was a teenager forced to leave school to care for the babies when she admitted she “just snapped” from the strain and threw the crying child into a bare crib when her mother ordered her to discipline her.
She’s completed her state prison sentence and is trying to build a new life.
But the Barretos remain on local and national law enforcement’s “wanted” lists.
“They’re still missing and we’re still looking,” said Union County Sheriff Jimmy Edwards, who was the chief deputy when the couple came under his lens.
Three years later, new families – including Edwards’ – are rearing the once abused, now-adopted children.
Atkins’ book, “The Lost Ones,” is the second in his fiction series built around former U.S. Army ranger Quinn Colson, back in his mythical home of Tibbeha, situated in proximity to Tupelo and Oxford.
He’s thinly veiled the Barretos – called Janet and Ramon Torres – and written their part of the plot around a baby mill.
The Lafayette County writer said recently that the Barreto story was too compelling to overlook as he mixed its facts with his own fiction for the book.
Does he worry he’ll be sued by such a ploy?
“Hey, let them come back and sue me,” Atkins laughed.
A former Auburn football player, Atkins is on tour promoting another new book, “Lullaby,” the latest edition of the noted Spencer series created by Atkins’ idol – detective writer Robert B. Parker, who died in 2010. The Parker estate hand-picked him to continue writing the popular detective novels.
That book hits bookstore shelves today to critical acclaim.
“The Lost One” comes out May 31.
Atkins’ first Quinn Colson book, “The Ranger,” was a finalist in this year’s Edgar Awards competition for mystery writers.
In the meanwhile, “America’s Most Wanted” TV show periodically replays its segment about the Barretos and asks the public for tips about their whereabouts. Lifetime network also broadcasts a “docu-drama” about the family.
There’s a $10,000 reward for information leading to their arrest.
Mexican officials know the pair is wanted but can’t seem to put much effort into taking them into custody, despite the multiple charges of child endangerment, felony child abuse and manslaughter by culpable negligence.
Edwards is hopeful: “We’ve gotten a few new tips lately.”
patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com