Little Enna Barreto And The Baby Trailer
On May 17, 2008, Janet and Ramon Barreto brought their two year-old adopted daughter Enna to the hospital. They said she fell out of a shopping cart, but doctors soon discovered this wasn't the truth. The little girl had severe head and body trauma that was more consistent with a car wreck than injuries sustained from a fall. When Enna was medevaced to a children's hospital in Memphis, doctors called the Union County Sheriff's Office and the Department of Human Services.
Poor little Enna died the next day, and when police went to arrest the Barretos, they'd already left the hospital. Cops say the couple did make contact with police, but remained evasive about their whereabouts. A warrant was issued for their home.
When cops arrived to the fenced-in property, they immediately heard a cacophony of barking sounds. Behind the Barreto's house was a large puppy mill with 187 dogs, more than 50 cats, and some ducks. The animals were filthy, some so matted with fur and feces that they couldn't even move. There was a breeding trailer where sickly mother dogs were forced to give birth to litters of puppies on top of mounds of their own feces. Police said the smell was almost unbearable.
The house itself was a doublewide trailer painted a cheery white. Inside was a different story. When police entered the residence, cockroaches scattered and fell from the ceiling. Rotten food, feces, and diabetic Janet's insulin needles littered the floor. The smell was so overpowering, the officers had to leave to get face masks.
Janet and Ramon Barreto, Janet's 17-year-old daughter Marainna Torres, and the couple's biological daughter baby Janet, 6, lived in the main trailer. There was a room down the hall that had a wire tied around the doorknob from the outside, locking it. The room was empty.
Then cops made a terrible discovery. In a small breezeway further down the hall was another door locked from the outside. When they cut the lock, they discovered that a single-wide trailer was attached. In the small room were seven cribs, three on one side, four on the other. Some cribs had plywood bottoms, others had spring-exposed mattresses. Dirty diapers, rotting food, and human filth covered the floor and crib bottoms. Tiny brown handprints were imprinted on the crib bars.
The most horrifying thing? The cribs were empty.
Broken Children, Broken Dreams
Luckily, a relative called the Department of Human Services and reported that they had the Barreto children. Police learned the Barretos had adopted seven children from Guatemala, including little Enna. There was Byron, 8; Edwin, Juan, and Celeste, 3; and Lucrecia and Luisa, 2. At first, police say the kids stared blankly ahead as if not really seeing anything. They couldn't talk, just whimper. As soon as the children realized the police and DHS workers weren't going to hurt them, they clung to officers' legs, starved for affection. Seeing that the children were extremely malnourished, police and DHS took them to get food.
At first, cops say the kids crammed food into their mouths and refused to swallow in an attempt to store the food for later. Eventually, the little ones ate a couple helpings.
The Barretos were arrested by U.S. Marshals and booked into the Union County Jail. Police thought the case was wrapped up until Janet's daughter Marainna came forward and said she had killed baby Enna. After her confession, the Barretos paid their $900,000 bond and left Janet's daughter to rot in jail. Marainna pled guilty to manslaughter.
Shortly afterwards, Marainna talked to police once more. This time, she told them something they had suspected. She said the Barretos tortured the children by tying their hands and feet to the cribs, dunking them in barrels of water until they lost consciousness, and that Ramon put hot peppers into the kids' mouths to make them stop crying. Doctor examinations of the children corroborated her testimony when they found ligature marks through X-rays and open sores in the kids' mouths from the peppers.
Marainna went on to describe her own childhood in the Barreto household. She said her mother and stepfather had beaten her since she was young, and forced her to drop out of school when she was 16 in order to watch the children full-time while her mother sold her puppy mill animals on the Internet. Marainna said that school had been an escape for her, and that her dreams of one day becoming a social worker to help other kids in her situation were broken when her mother forced her to quit.
From then on, Marainna said her mother made her take care of the children, but wouldn't let her give them blankets or toys. When Janet told her to "take care of that baby," she said it meant to silence the child by any means necessary. If she didn't follow orders, Marainna said she would get beaten.
The strain of this lifestyle finally caught up with her, and Marainna said she got to the breaking point the day Enna was taken to the hospital. The Barretos had been shopping in Memphis that day, and when they returned home, Enna was fussy. Janet told her to make Enna stop crying, and Marainna finally snapped. She said she threw Enna into her plywood crib and hadn't realized how badly the little girl had been injured. Marainna said she tried to revive Enna, and took her to her mother. Marainna told police the Barretos wanted to dispose of baby Enna in the septic tank, but that she insisted they take her to the hospital. Unfortunately, they were too late.
When Janet heard her daughter was singing like a bird to police, she called Marainna in jail and threatened her to change her story and take back everything she said about the Barretos. Marainna told police about the call, and Janet was charged with witness intimidation.
When the Barretos didn't show up for their trial, police learned they skipped town and issued a warrant for their arrest.
Marainna was sentenced to 20 years in prison on May 6, 2010. The judge suspended 15 years of her sentence and gave credit for the time she had already served while awaiting sentencing.
The other Barreto children and puppy mill animals have happier tales.
The Tupelo-Lee Humane Society and dozens of volunteer workers spent days cleaning up the puppy mill animals. The cats were all found to be feline HIV positive, but have been adopted by homes that will give them special care. Each and every dog in the Barreto compound, including the mothers, have found happy homes. The Barretos were not charged with any animal cruelty charges because they willingly surrendered the animals to the Humane Society for rescue after the puppy mill was discovered.
The Barreto children have exhibited a miraculous resilience and capacity to love. Byron, Juan, Celeste, Luisa, Lucrecia, and baby Janet have all been adopted by loving families in Mississippi. Now they laugh and play like children should.
The bond between Chief Deputy Jimmy Edwards and little Edwin grew, and Jimmy and his wife began taking him for weekend visits. It wasn't long before they decided to make Edwin an official part of the family and adopted him. Edwin loves playing with toy police cars, riding in the cruiser with his dad, and telling everyone that he knows exactly what he wants to be when he grows up.
As for Janet and Ramon Barreto, cops need your help finding them. Ramon has family in Mexico, and the two might be hiding south of the border. New information leads police to believe they could also be in Guatemala.
Janet has diabetes and needs insulin, so she will most likely visit medical clinics. She also is suffering from gout.
Police are now offering a $10,000 reward for their capture and fear that the Barretos will start adopting and hurting children again.
If you know where the Barettos are hiding or have any information that could help police, call our Hotline at 1-800-CRIME-TV.
We have Spanish-speaking operators standing by, and you call our hotline toll-free from Mexico at 001-800-274-6388.