MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The mother of Nubia Barahona, a young girl who died in the custody of her adoptive parents in a grisly torture case that made national headlines, has pleaded guilty, nine years after the crime, according to the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office.
Carmen Barahona, 69, will receive a life prison sentence in exchange for testimony against her husband, Jorge.
"At this time, you're entering a plea of guilty to all counts in the indictment that apply to you. Is that in your understanding?"
"Count one, you're pleading guilty to first-degree murder?"
"Do you understand that?"
"You're facing life in prison or the death penalty, do you understand that?"
Carmen Barahona accepted responsibility for the atrocities she inflicted on two innocent children placed in her care and eventually adopted by her and her husband and co-defendant, Jorge Barahona," stated Katherine Fernandez Rundle.
"It can't get any worse than this. Some of the atrocities we see here are just heartbreaking."
"By allowing her to enter her guilty plea today and assist in the prosecution of her husband, we are one step closer to helping the surviving child victim, in this case, see justice prevail for him and his deceased twin sister, Nubia."
On Valentine's Day 2011, police found the decomposing body of ten-year-old Nubia Barahona in the back of her adoptive father's pesticide truck parked on the side of I-95 in West Palm Beach. In the front seat, they found her twin brother Victor, suffering seizures from chemical burns.
The Barahonas adopted Nubia and Victor in 2009 after living in their home since 2004. The kids, authorities discovered, had endured starvation, beatings, medical neglect and they had been tied up and forced to stay in a bathtub.
"My prosecution team remains vigilant in obtaining justice against Jorge Barahona for the horrific acts he is responsible for against these innocent children. Today's sentence of life in prison is being deferred until after her full and truthful cooperation against her co-defendant, Jorge Barahona. If she fails in this requirement, she will be facing a sentencing hearing before a jury," stated Fernandez Rundle.
The Department of Children and Families came under fire during the course of the police investigation into Nubia's death for failing to piece together warning signs from medical professionals and school officials that something was wrong in the Barahona home.
The agency blamed it on a system-wide failure, including a poor judgment by child protective investigators, overwhelming caseloads and missed opportunities at every turn.
Nubia's death prompted the creation of a task force to recommend reforms, such as hiring more child-abuse investigators and making changes to the state's abuse and neglect hotline.
DCF eventually agreed to a settlement that called for paying Victor $5 million for allowing the Barahonas to adopt the children despite signs of abuse. It paid $1.25 million before Florida lawmakers signed off on the rest, $3.75 million, in 2017.
Jorge Barahona, 52, faces the death penalty if convicted in Nubia's death. His trial is scheduled to begin in April. He has pleaded not guilty.
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