A concerned court-appointed guardian doggedly tried to prevent Jorge and Carmen Barahona from being allowed to adopt fraternal twins Nubia and Victor Doctor, the Miami Herald reports.
Paul Neumann became gravely concerned for the twins around 2007, records show. He discussed Nubia's welfare with officials at her school, interviewed the children during a lunch visit, contacted their relatives in Texas, and expressed his concerns to multiple parties in the child welfare system.
The Barahonas, in three letters defending themselves to then-Governor Charlie Crist, dismissed Neumann's interference as a "personality conflict" and claimed he was tampering with witnesses.
The pair, who were allowed to adopt the twins and two other foster children, are now at the center of one of the most horrifying child abuse cases in recent memory: Jorge Barahona was found passed out Monday near his truck on the side of Interstate 95, with 10-year-old Victor doused in chemicals, severely burned, and suffering seizures in the passenger seat.
Hours later, when workers attempted to decontaminate the truck, they Nubia's body stuffed in a bag and steeped in chemicals. A source reports the twins may have been sprayed with pesticides.
Police had been frantically searching for the children after the couple's biological grandchild told a therapist she had witnessed the twins being bound and forced to remain in a bathtub for hours, prompting a report to the Department of Children and Families. Seven-year-old Alessandra Perez was removed from her mother's custody Friday, and is also considered to be a victim of abuse.
Though DCF has so far declined to release their file on the Barahonas, limited records obtained by the Herald show there were plenty of hints things were amiss at their home in suburban Miami. In addition to Neumann's concerns, several employees at the childrens' school testified against the adoption, and three abuse reports were filed on Nubia's behalf in three years after the Barahonas gained custody in 2004.
The first came when Nubia informed someone at her school that she was being "touched" by her father. Records show child welfare professionals suspected she referred to her birth father, who had already lost custody, and took no action.
A year later, the girl arrived at school with bruising on her face and neck; teachers suspected abuse. Though the Barahonas were ordered to present themselves and Nubia to the Department of Health’s Child Protection Team, they waited so long to comply that the marks had faded, and doctors accepted the couples' story that the girl had fallen.
In 2007, a third report was filed from the school, stating that Nubia regularly complained of hunger, was dirty, and smelled.
In June of 2010, a similar report was issued: Nubia was so "uncontrollably" hungry that she was stealing food, had begun losing her hair, and was "nervous" and "jittery." The Barahonas shortly pulled their children for homeschooling.
Jorge Barahona pled not guilty to his son's attempted murder Friday; no charges have been filed yet in Nubia Doctor's death. Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman ordered last week that adoption subsidies estimated at $950 per month for the couple's three surviving children be cut off immediately.