DCF and court-appointed advocate weigh in on case
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – On the third anniversary of the death of then 10-year old Nubia Barahona and the near-death of her brother, Victor, many still criticize a system that could not protect the twin siblings from their own adoptive parents.
The images are burned into our minds, Jorge Barahona’s truck on the side of Interstate 95 in West Palm Beach. Clinging to life inside was Victor. Nearby, Nubia’s lifeless body was found in a bag and doused in chemicals. Prosecutors say abuse started long before February 14, 2011.
“Every Valentine’s Day, it should sting everybody what happened in this house,” said Paul Neumann who was Guardian ad Litem – the court-appointed advocate – for the Barahona children before Nubia’s tragic death. “The kids that I was involved with who lived in this house will always be in my mind and my heart,” he said outside the family’s former home in west Miami. “The pain that these kids went through, should go through the heads of everybody who cares about kids or about people,” he said.
The Florida Department of Children & Families says it has made major changes in who is hired and how those people better safeguard the most vulnerable in our communities.
“The case really was the beginning of the total redevelopment of the entire child protective infrastructure,” said Pete Digre, Deputy Secretary for DCF.
Neumann, though, does not believe that much has changed in three years. “Maybe the pendulum has been pushed that much,” he said. It’s not enough.”
However, he finds hope in Victor – the survivor – who is now 13 and living in Texas. “He’s with family. He’s with loved ones which is where he should have been from the beginning,” said Neumann.
Jorge Barahona awaits a child abuse trial in Palm Beach County, while both he and his now-former wife, Carmen, face first-degree murder charges in Miami-Dade County. If convicted in Miami-Dade County, they could face the death penalty.
“I’m sure there are people that also looked away when they maybe could have done just a little bit more,” said Neumann.
To learn more about Florida’s Guardian ad Litem program, click here.