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Ten tough years for adopted twins

By Kim Segal and John Zarrella, CNN
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Police: Man tried to kill himself, son
  • Biological aunt wanted to take them in
  • There were numerous warnings about adoptive family
  • Court-appointed guardian is devastated
  • Jorge Barahona has been charged with aggravated child abuse

Read more about the case against Jorge Barahona.

(CNN) -- There were blood relatives in Houston who wanted to adopt.

There was a guardian ad litem volunteer who had concerns about the adoptive parents.

Child investigators were called on more than one occasion to the home.

Yet early Monday along a Florida interstate, a road ranger pulled up behind a parked truck only to find an exterminator and his 10-year-old son unconscious, soaked in chemicals, and the boy's twin sister dead.

Jorge Barahona -- a 53-year-old father of four children adopted from the state's foster care system -- told police he was distraught over the death of his daughter and had intended to commit suicide by dousing himself with gasoline and setting himself afire -- but didn't go through with it.

The family had been at the center of multiple complaints to Florida's Department of Children and Families, with callers reporting the twins being locked in bathrooms for long periods of time or bound with tape, according to court testimony. Even so, the children were allowed to remain in the house.

This story appears to magnify everything that could go wrong with a child protective system.

In 2004, the siblings were placed with a foster family, according to Sonia Ferrer, circuit director of the guardian ad litem program. That family was Jorge and Carmen Barahona, she says.

As often is the case when children are in the Florida foster system, a volunteer from the guardian ad litem program was assigned to look out for their best interests.

"The guardian was with the children for four years," Ferrer said. "He had concerns about the placement."

Twins found in car, one dead
  • Florida
  • Foster Care
  • Adoption
  • Social Issues

Those concerns were brought to the court's attention and investigated before the children were officially adopted by the Barahonas in 2009, Ferrer said. "We did everything we could at the time. A full evidentiary hearing."

The judge on the case sided with the experts who found no problem with the children living with the Barahonas. Ferrer recently spoke to that guardian ad litem, who she says is devastated over what happened to the children.

He is not the only one. The biological father's sister and her husband wanted to adopt the twins, according to their attorney Steven Grossbard.

"Unfortunately, the expert opinion suggested that there was a significant bond and the courts are inclined to go with experts' opinion," Grossbard said.

The bond he refers to is the five years the twins lived with the Barahonas as their foster children before being adopted by them in 2009.

Over the years problems in the Barahona home were brought to officials' attention. "Several times we've been out to the home," Florida Department of Children and Families spokesman Mark Riordan said. He would not elaborate on the nature of the complaints.

The most recent was a call to a child abuse hotline received just days before the twins were found in the truck, according to testimony Wednesday. The testimony came during a Miami placement hearing for the Barahonas' three surviving adopted children.

According to testimony by a Department of Children and Families official, the information in the anonymous hotline call came from the 7-year-old daughter of Carmen Barahona's biological daughter.

"When she would go to this home, where these children were being locked in the bathroom, they were being tied, but they were being untied to eat," a DCF official testified. The granddaughter was told by her mother and grandmother that she was to keep "family secrets" quiet.

This information was corroborated when the granddaughter and the two other adopted children were interviewed, according to testimony. All alleged abuses discussed in the hearing were directed toward the twins, not the two other children.

Jorge Barahona has been charged with aggravated child abuse, the West Palm Beach Police Department said and will likely face other charges.

His wife, Carmen, has not been charged. She tried to hide her face at Wednesday's hearing, where the allegations of abuse were denied by her attorney.

The hotline call was on Thursday, according to court testimony. The DCF investigator, Andrea Fleary, said she went to the house on Friday night but Carmen Barahona would not let her speak to the children.

Fleary testified that she left the house with the intention of following up on Monday.