A couple wanted since 2008 on numerous charges tied to the death of their two-year-old adopted daughter have been arrested in Portland.
Union County, Miss. authorities have confirmed Janet and Ramon Barreto are in custody. According to the US Marshals, the Barretos were located in a shopping mall around 5:15 p.m. Tuesday. They had a child with them at the time of their arrest. The child was taken into protective custody.
A tip on Monday lead authorities to their location, Marshals said. The couple refused to identify themselves, but a digital fingerprint system was used to identify Ramon Barreto. Janet Barreto was identified after being fingerprinted at the jail.
They were charged in 2008 with child neglect, child abuse, tampering with a witness, and manslaughter in the death of Enna Barreto, and the abuse of six other children. They were each wanted for failure to appear on original charges of manslaughter of a child, three counts of child abuse, six counts of child neglect and tampering with a witness.
Sheriff Jimmy Edwards says the U. S. Marshals Service located the couple in Portland on Tuesday.
In 2008, authorities had raided the Barretos' home on a tip that Enna had been abused. She was taken from a local hospital to Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center in Memphis, Tenn., where she died. Doctors there suspected child neglect and tipped off the sheriff's department, which got a warrant and raided the property.
There were certainly some highs and lows over the years, but we never forgot one of those children lost their lives with that incident and that's what started the whole case, Edwards said. We have a lot of friends at the Marshal Service, and we help each other. They never gave up and we never gave up.
Union County investigator Roger Garner worked the case from the beginning, and said hearing the news today was a great relief.
I am absolutely overjoyed that they have been caught, and I had confidence that they would be, Garner said. We had so many people and agencies that were assisting us. In the light of what happened to those children and that first little girl that died, we have always held that justice would be done. It took a little while but we never let up.
District Attorney Ben Creekmore told reporters the case against the Barretos will be top priority.
The Barretos were arrested in 2008 initially and were free on $450,000 bond when they left Union County. They fled to California, and to Mexico, but authorities were unable to corner them there. They were added to the U.S. Marshals 15 Most Wanted List last year.
That added open doors for more things to be put into place and certainly showed the seriousness of it, Edwards said. Getting so close multiple times and them being able to get away was the lows, but it's definitely one of the high points to know they're in custody and they're going to be brought back to face justice.
From 2005 to 2006, it was alleged that the Barretos traveled to Guatemala on several occasions to purchase children from an adoption agency.
The children were allegedly physically abused, malnourished and lived in deplorable conditions. Allegedly they were punished with beatings and sometimes duct-taped to their beds, punched and their heads were held under water.
These were the conditions that led to Enna's death, authorities said.
Garner said the other children were all adopted out to loving homes, which has been a blessing. He said the Barretos were dangerous people.
Evil. One word would describe them, that's evil, Garner said. Evil is in this world, and that's what I do, seek it out and protect those who can't protect themselves.
The couple also ran a puppy mill, and more than 180 dogs, 25 cats and several ducks in various conditions were found on their property.
In June, the Humane Society of the United States alerted the animal welfare community.
Melanie Kahn, senior director of the puppy mills campaign for The Humane Society of the United States, said: Too often, the boundaries are wafer thin between cruelty to animals and cruelty to the most vulnerable members of our society, young children.
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KING 5's Susan Wyatt contributed to this report