By Patsy Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Marainna Torres said she lived in fear and filth at least four years before she snapped and killed her 2-year-old adoptive sister.
She also said her mother, Janet Killough Barreto, tried to locate strangers who might take some of the eight children she and her husband had adopted from Guatemala.
Thursday, Circuit Judge Andrew Howorth sentenced Torres, 19, to 20 years in prison in the manslaughter death of Ena Barreto. He suspended 15 years and gave her credit for the nearly two years she’s been held in the Union County jail since Ena’s death in 2008.
Janet Barreto and her husband, Ramon, also are charged in the child’s death, as well as six counts of child endangerment and three counts of felony child abuse.
But they disappeared from their rural Union County home nearly a year ago and are being sought, even by “America’s Most Wanted” TV show.
After her sentencing, Torres’ attorney, Tim Tucker of Pontotoc, said he wished Howorth had given her only time served and allowed her to go home with her biological father, Martin Torres, of Pontotoc County.
Tucker suggested that Torres could be free and on supervised release in as little as a year, depending on internal decisions by the state Department of Corrections.
Torres soon will be turned over to MDOC and assigned to a prison.
District Attorney Ben Creekmore said Torres should be held responsible for the child’s death, saying “she made choices that were wrong.”
Ena Barreto died May 19, 2008, from injuries to her head and torso after Torres threw her across a room and into her baby bed. Her mother first told authorities the child fell from a shopping cart during a Memphis outing.
In lengthy testimony on the stand Thursday, Torres said she was the one who insisted Ena be taken to the hospital in New Albany, over her mother’s suggestion they dump the body in a Texas septic tank and tell anyone who asked that they didn’t know where she was.
Tears flowed during the Lafayette County Courthouse hearing – from Torres, her Department of Human Services social worker and from a Union County investigator, who said he thought she deserved more punishment than the two years she’d spent in jail.
Andrea Hill, now a DHS supervisor, was Torres’ case worker and investigated Ena’s death. She also looked into the conditions affecting all nine Barreto children, including Torres, in the County Road 87 home near New Albany.
“It was deplorable,” Hill testified in describing the dwelling made of two connecting manufactured homes – one doublewide and a single. “It smelled so bad that we had to raise the windows and open the doors.”
Testimony and photos revealed a residence littered with soiled diapers, soiled clothes, garbage, dog urine and feces, insects and needles used by diabetic Janet Barreto. They also ran a puppy mill in the backyard.
The Barretos and Torres lived in the doublewide, and the children – most under age 3 – were kept in the single.
“It was not fit for a dog,” Hill said. “It’s the worst I’ve ever seen.”
Torres said her mother allowed her to feed the children only hot dogs and sandwiches, and locked the door to the single at night.
Hill and Torres told about the Barretos’ putting the teenager in complete charge of the children, ultimately forcing her to quit high school so she could care for them 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
On the stand, Torres said she feared her mother and stepfather, saying they forced her to punish the children or they would punish her.
Among the child punishments, she said, were beatings, sleeping without a mattress, binding their hands and feet bound with duct tape and putting hot-pepper sauce put into their mouths.
Torres also said one of the children, with special needs, was caged in a closet off and on for about six years.
And her mother, she said, would search via computer for strangers to take some of their five girls and three boys.
Torres wept as she talked about the children. Hill and other DHS workers in the courtroom also wiped tears from their eyes. Even Jimmy Edwards, Union County Sheriff’s chief deputy, teared up when he talked about investigating the death.
He and his wife adopted one of the Barreto children. Hill said the others also have been adopted.
Ena’s fatal injury occurred, Torres said, after the child was crying and her mother was screaming at her throughout their trip to Memphis. When they got home, she said, Janet told her to spank Ena.
That’s when Torres took the 2-year-old to the children’s room, threw her across it and the child struck part of the bed as she landed.
Torres’ sentencing had been delayed for her testimony during a pending Barreto trial. Thursday, she promised to tell the truth when that day finally comes.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662)
678-1596 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coming Sunday in the NEMS Daily Journal newspaper:
Where are Marainna Torres’ parents?