By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
NEW ALBANY – Jimmy Edwards, chief deputy sheriff for Union County, will receive a national “Top Cop” Award in May for his lead role in a case that resulted in the removal of seven children from a home in which one of their adoptive siblings had died. The award will be one of 10 presented in Washington, D.C., by the National Association of Police Organizations, with each highlighting a difficult law enforcement case.
Edwards is also a nominee for the “All Star” award sponsored by Fox TV’s “America’s Most Wanted” program.
Edwards was hip-deep in investigating the death of Enna Barreto from blunt force trauma and the abuse of her adopted brothers and sisters when he realized it was transforming his life. Edwin, one of the family’s 3-year-olds, seemed drawn to Edwards, as the deputy was to the child. The parents, Janet and Ramon Barreto, had abandoned Edwin and his siblings and fled, apparently to avoid prosecution for Enna’s death, and Department of Human Services officials had taken responsibility for the children.
“The following days and weeks they were here several times,” he said in his office at the Sheriff’s Department. “Edwin would always come to me, so we kind of took up with each other.
Edwards’ wife, Larissa, works in the other end of the building as Union County’s Justice Court clerk.
“It was probably the second time they were up there, Jimmy said, ‘You’ve got to come over here and see this little boy,” she said. “He was just precious, and I reached to see if he’d let me hold him. He came right to me and laid his little head on my shoulder.”
The Edwardses began taking Edwin home on weekends and soon decided the Sunday night separations were too hard on the child.
“It didn’t take much of that before we decided to go through the classes and get our home checked to become foster parents,” Jimmy said.
State law required six months of being foster parents before adoption, and on April 15, 2009, Jimmy and Larissa became Edwin’s lawful parents.
“It was God’s plan for us,” Jimmy Edwards said. “Edwin chose us; we didn’t choose him.”
Larissa Edwards said nearly two years’ separation from the Barretos have eased the overcautious attitude Edwin had when she and Jimmy first connected with him. While he still sleeps restlessly at times, he’s generally a happy little boy, she said.
“I hope he’s forgotten everything that happened before,” she added.
While the Top Cop award is a certainty for Jimmy Edwards, he is one of about 140 police officers, firefighters and other emergency responders nominated for the “America’s Most Wanted” honor. His placement among the eight weekly finalists for the award will depend on votes from the public at www.amw.com/allstar/2010/nominee-detail.cfm?id=8133&refresh=1 through April 11.
Edwards said he found the stories of some other nominees more compelling than his own.
“If you go on the Web site and read some of the other nominees, there’s some of them way more deserving,” he said. “It’s nice to be nominated, but we’ve got our reward with this little boy.”