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Florida father charged in heinous murder of adopted twins is incompetent to stand trial, judge rules

Charles Rabin and Carol Marbin Miller, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

MIAMI — Jorge Barahona, jailed for the past 13 years for one of the most heinous acts of child abuse in South Florida memory, will not have to stand trial — for an undetermined amount of time — a judge ruled Friday.

At the end of a brief hearing, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Andrea Wolfson accepted the conclusion of two of three court-appointed doctors who determined Barahona, 53, was not competent to stand trial. She ordered him “committed” to the state’s Department of Children & Families.

“He’s incompetent to proceed,” said the judge.

What that means, at least for Barahona’s immediate future, wasn’t exactly clear.

Typically, criminal defendants determined to be incompetent are sent for treatment by DCF, which operates six state psychiatric hospitals across the state, including South Florida State Hospital in Pembroke Pines. Florida law requires that DCF take custody within 15 days.

Currently, however, the psychiatric hospitals are packed full, with about 450 Floridians deemed too mentally ill or insane to stand trial, waiting on beds. That leaves most criminal defendants forced to wait in jail, often with a lack of meaningful treatment, for weeks or months.

Once Barahona, 56, is in DCF custody, mental health professionals will begin the process of “restoring” him to competence. If that can be done, Barahona would then be returned to the Miami-Dade County Jail for trial.

The judge’s decision could lead to several different outcomes, according to legal experts. Once he’s found competent, he could argue he was insane when the crimes were committed. Or, if a judge ultimately determines Barahona to be “unrestorable,” the charges could be dropped and he could ultimately be set free.

 

Barahona’s attorney, Carmen Vizcaino, had not returned phone calls by early afternoon Friday. The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office also had not responded.

Notorious murder of twins

Very few people currently jailed have spent more time behind bars in Miami-Dade than Jorge Barahona, who’s been charged with first-degree murder, first-degree attempted murder and several counts of aggravated child neglect against his adopted twin children. Also charged with the same offenses was his wife, Carmen Barahona.

On Valentine’s Day in 2011, police found 10-year-old Nubi Barahona dead, wrapped in a plastic bag and covered with chemicals and decomposing in the bed of a pickup truck on the side of I-95 in West Palm Beach. She had been dead for three days. Her twin brother, Victor, was in the truck’s cab suffering seizures from chemical burns. Beside him, suffering a similar fate, was Jorge Barahona.

Investigators ultimately determined the twins had been beaten and tortured repeatedly in the family’s Westchester home. Prosecutors also believe they were starved and often tied up in the bathtub for long periods of time with the door locked.

The case also rocked the state’s child welfare agency, which allowed the adoption of the twins and then overlooked repeated allegations of abuse. A court-appointed guardian told investigators the Barahonas barred him from entering the home on official welfare visits.

Trial was delayed for years as lawyers who took hundreds of depositions came and went for various reasons. Then, just as the COVID pandemic hit in February 2020, Carmen Barahona pleaded guilty and accepted a life sentence in exchange for the state dropping its ultimate punishment as death. Trial was further delayed by COVID.


©2024 Miami Herald. Visit at miamiherald.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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