Skip to main content

Adoptive father of twins pleads not guilty to attempted murder charge

From the CNN Wire Staff
Jorge Barahona has been charged with attempted murder of his 10-year-old adopted son.
Jorge Barahona has been charged with attempted murder of his 10-year-old adopted son.
  • NEW: Court document says Jorge Barahona "admitted" to putting substance on his son
  • Jorge Barahona pleaded not guilty Friday in West Palm Beach, Florida
  • The boy is in critical condition; his twin sister was found dead in a plastic bag
  • The home of Barahona, his wife and their four adopted kids was searched

Miami (CNN) -- A Florida exterminator suspected of killing his daughter and dousing his son with chemicals pleaded not guilty in a West Palm Beach courtroom Friday after being charged with attempted murder.

According to a motion for pretrial detention revealed Friday, Jorge Barahona "admitted to placing the caustic substance on the child," his 10-year-old adopted son, before he tried to kill himself. In an earlier probable-cause affidavit filed by detectives, police said that Barahona told them that "some of the gasoline must have splattered" on the boy.

There have been no charges yet pertaining to the adopted daughter, who was the boy's twin sister and was found dead in a plastic bag inside the father's truck.

Barahona was charged a day after police officers executed a search warrant at the home he shared with his wife, Carmen, West Palm Beach Police spokesman Chase Scott told CNN. The couple had adopted the twins and two other children from Florida's foster care system, court records show.

Carmen Barahona talked Thursday night with members of the Miami-Dade Police Department. That interview was voluntary, and she is not in custody, Scott said. Miami-Dade is assisting the West Palm Beach Police Department, which remains the lead investigator on the case.

Florida DCF: 'Outraged all of us'
Twins found in car, one dead
Police: Man tried to kill himself, son
  • Florida
  • Foster Care
  • Adoption
  • Social Issues

A road assistance ranger found Jorge Barahona unconscious early Monday beside his pest-control truck along a south Florida interstate. Barahona's son was inside the vehicle next to an open gasoline can, according to the probable-cause affidavit. Hours later, crews removing toxic chemicals from the truck discovered the boy's twin sister inside, dead.

A medical examiner has determined what caused the death of Barahona's daughter, but the cause was not being made public, Police Capt. Mary Olsen said Wednesday.

On Friday, the 10-year-old boy remained in critical condition in a pediatric intensive care unit at Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital, Florida's Department of Children and Families spokeswoman Lissette Valdes-Valle said. The boy is confined to his bed in the facility's burn center, though he is interactive and moving when awake, she added.

He was suffering from severe burns to his abdomen, upper thighs and buttocks, the affidavit said. While examining the boy, doctors noted that he had sustained previous injuries, including a broken collarbone, a broken arm, scarring to his buttocks and lower abdomen, and ligature marks on both wrists, police said.

Four days earlier, on Monday, the roadside assistance ranger determined that the boy "appeared to be in respiratory distress and (was) trembling" and his clothing "was soaked with an unknown chemical," according to the probable-cause affidavit.

The ranger then found Barahona on the ground beside the truck and called for help.

Barahona 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, the affidavit said. Barahona said he didn't go through with his suicide plan because his son was with him, the document added.

"Basically, to paraphrase, he was stating that he placed his daughter in a plastic bag being distraught over her death," Scott told reporters Wednesday. "He drove here from South Florida accompanied by his son.

"He then pulled off to the side of the road saying that he poured gas on his self, intending to light himself on fire. His son's head was in his lap and he decided, after giving his son some sleeping pills, that he wasn't going to do that."

Barahona told police that in dousing himself with gasoline, he inadvertently got some on the boy, Olsen said Wednesday.

But his story doesn't add up, because there was no gasoline on the boy, she said. Instead, he was covered with another chemical whose composition was not immediately determined.

Scott said the substance on the boy's body and clothes was so potent that staff caring for the boy at the hospital became ill as well.

At a hearing Wednesday in Miami attended by Barahona's wife, Carmen, a judge ordered that the remaining two children in the home be placed in foster care.

Florida's Department of Children and Families had opened a child protection investigation within the past few days to look into a complaint involving the Barahona family, and it wasn't the first such complaint, spokesman Mark Riordan said.

Reporters in the courtroom Wednesday heard tales of abuse, mainly concerning the twins, from state officials and experts.

A caller to the child protection hotline reported that the twins were routinely locked in a bathroom for long periods of time and had been bound with tape, the court heard. The story was corroborated by interviews with the other two children in the home, officials said in court.

An investigator told the court that she went to the family's home on February 11 but had not seen the children. Instead, she said, she left after speaking with Carmen Barahona, planning to return on Monday. Asked why she did not return sooner, she said, "I'm not allowed to do investigations on a weekend."

However, a spokesman for the department, John Harrell, said it is the job of investigators to follow through immediately or refer to someone else in the department to follow through when a matter is urgent.

CNN's Kim Segal contributed to this report.