• 77°

Couple charged with child endangerment

Union County authorities say additional charges are possible in a case that began with the death of a 2-year-old Guatemalan girl.

Enna Isabel Barreto died May 19 at Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center in Memphis, where doctors called in law enforcement. Family members claimed the girl suffered head injuries in a fall from a shopping cart.

Sheriff Tommie Wilhite said Tuesday that after the child’s death, investigators went to the home of Ramon Barreto, 29, and Janet Killough Barreto, 36, described as the child’s adoptive parents, and found conditions that led to the filing of seven counts of child endangerment.

Authorities say the Barretos are also the parents of Janet Barreto’s 17-year-old daughter, a young child of their own and six other adopted children from kindergarten-age to 2.

Wilhite said conditions inside the Barreto home were filthy. He said 185 maltreated dogs, possibly part of a puppy mill operation, were found outside the home. The animals were turned over to the Tupelo-Lee Humane Society.

The couple’s attorney, Tony Farese of Ashland, has said he expects to request a hearing to reduce their bail, now totaling $350,000 each. No hearing date has been set.

Farese has told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal that his clients had nothing to do with the child’s death.

Wilhite said his office was in daily contact with District Attorney Ben Creekmore and that additional charges — possibly related to the child’s death — may be filed.

Wilhite said earlier that most of the young children in the family were from Guatemala and the nationalities of the others were not clear.

Sheriff’s Investigator Roger Garner said the U.S. Marshals Service was working to determine the immigration status of those involved in the case.

Wilhite said Tuesday that federal immigration officials at one point had contacted his office. He said the children are in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Human Services.