On February 14, 2011, I left for work. Like most mornings, I took the same road I always take. I got on SW 48th street westbound which when I cross SW 107th avenue it becomes SW 47th terrace. Don’t ask me why. It just does; it is one of those Miami-Dade County planning things that have no logical explanation. However, I think it has something to do with the endless series of canals that bisect and crisscross Miami like the surface of Mars.
Anyway, I headed west to hook up with SW 117th avenue which eventually takes me to the Florida Turnpike which lets me get to work. As I approached 117th avenue, which is one mile from my house, I noticed two news vans parked on the east side of a house. One van was from the local English speaking news station; the other van was from the Spanish speaking news station. This is a bilingual town.
In front of the house were several police squad cars, the officers were just starting to put the crime scene tape out. Detectives were walking around the ranch-style brown house with the foreboding wrought iron gate and perfectly trimmed shrubbery.
Overall, the house looked pretty, but uninviting. The house’s exterior telegraphed a certain coldness even though it was well maintained. Who knew its austere outward appearance accurately communicated the chilling horror within.
I slowed down to rubberneck and didn’t see anything noteworthy. Thinking it was a grow house the just got busted or a domestic dispute got seriously ugly, I shrugged it off and headed to work.
By the time I got to work, people were talking about a pick-up truck that was found on I-95 in West Palm Beach. The initial reports were that a man and boy were found in the truck. They were alive but they appeared to be suffering from the effects associated with breathing toxic fumes and chemical burns. In addition to the burns, the boy had other physical injuries. The truck belonged to the man. He was an exterminator from Miami. His truck was equipped with the tools and chemicals of his trade. His home was the one which had the crime scene investigation in progress.
Later in the day, it was reported that the emergency personnel aiding the man and the boy were alarmed by the strange odors that were coming from the truck. Smells they felt were not consistent with pesticides. They called a hazardous material team to come out and investigate.
Sometime later, the grisly truth was revealed. In the flatbed, was a garbage bag. When the bag was opened, investigators found the partially decomposed remains of 10-year old Nubia Docter Barahona. She was the twin sister of Victor Docter Barahona, the boy in the truck, and Jorge Barahona’s adopted daughter.
Nubia’s short, sad, tortured life ended on February 11, 2011. She was beaten to death by her adopted parents: Jorge and Carmen Barahona. Her life started on May of 2000. She and her fraternal brother were born to a mother who had serious drug and alcohol abuse problems. The twins were eventually taken away from her and handed over to their biological father; he had problems of his own. The twins were put in foster care. Eventually, they wound up in “the care” of Jorge and Carmen Barahona; the couple later adopted the twins. Jorge owned an exterminating business, Carmen was a nurse. They had already adopted a boy with autism.
Although there were some strange reports concerning the Barahonas and Nubia, the couple was allowed to adopt the twins in 2008. Reports such as “… in 2006, school staff called DCF to report a large bruise on Nubia’s face that they suspected was child abuse. The Barahonas were ordered to bring her to an appointment with the Department of Health’s Child Protection Team in Miami, but did not show up until a week later. By then, most of the bruising had disappeared and state doctors agreed with the Barahona’s assertion that the bruise was from a fall” were steadily being filed. In 2007, “School authorities reported that Nubia was extremely thin, always hungry, and had an unpleasant odor. DCF investigated the claims, but were met with insistence from the Barahonas that Nubia’s condition was not from hygiene problems or neglect, but caused by her medical condition. The investigation was dropped.” (Source for both quotes: The Murder of Nubia Barahona)
But the school system wasn’t the only entity concerned with the twin’s safety. Nubia had a member of the Barahona family fighting in her corner. Ironically, on February 10, 2011, the day before her death, a child therapist had placed a call to child welfare officials. The call was placed at the urging of her six year old patient Alessandra Perez who happened to be Carmen Barahona’s granddaughter. According to reports, Alessandra witnessed Victor and Nubia bound hand and foot and made to stand in the bathtub for hours. The girl felt threatened that her grandmother would hurt her if she reported the incident. Thank God she was able to confide in her therapist.
In addition to Alessandra and twin’s school, Nubia and Victor’s aunt and uncle in Texas had raised some concerns of their own. They felt the children were being neglected and not given proper hygienic care. Nubia herself had complained that Jorge Barahona was sexually abusing her in conjunction with the beatings and forced starvation. All these allegations were filed with the Department of Children and Family (DCF), but according to them “[In] each case there was not enough evidence to suggest Nubia had been abused or to remove her from her household.” (Source: “Document Detail Short, Sad Life of Nubia Docter Found Dead in Father’s Truck”)
Simply put, an understaffed, underpaid, under-budgeted, and overworked staff was tasked to protect a little girl from the people assigned to give her the one basic need every child needs: a clean, loving, and nurturing home life. In other words, a family.
Shortly after the body was discovered and Nubia’s real life horror story was made public, a makeshift memorial was placed at the foot of one of the tall, stout palm trees that stand guard in front of the Barahona’s former torture chamber. The base of the tree was surrounded with flowers, candles, and stuffed animals. Hand scrawled signs offering prayers were attached to the tree. One of the signs was politically charged. It expressed anger at the institutions that are supposed to protect these kids. It read: Department of Constant Failure.
According to initial reports, both, Jorge and Carmen Barahona could face the death penalty. Their trial was set to start on July of this year although it is most likely it won’t start until much later. As of this writing, I have not been able to find any updates on the trial.
A few weeks ago, I noticed this sign as I crossed 107th avenue. Southwest 47th terrace has been given an additional name: Nubia Way in memory of Nubia Docter Barahona.