MIAMI — Prosecutors said yesterday that they would seek the death penalty for a Miami couple accused in the slaying of their 10-year-old daughter, who was found dead in the back of her father’s pickup truck while her brother sat in the front seat badly burned by chemicals.
Jorge Barahona, dressed in a green suicide-watch vest exposing his bare arms, wept as he was led handcuffed into the courtroom. He sat several seats away from his wife, Carmen, who looked composed but frail.
“He’s extremely emotionally unstable right now,’’ said his attorney, Edith Georgie. “He’s been crying the whole time.’’
Both have pleaded not guilty to 18 charges including first-degree murder for the death of their adopted daughter, Nubia, and several aggravated child abuse and neglect charges related to her and her twin brother, Victor.
Authorities said the couple, who became the twins’ foster parents in 2004, beat the twins with a shoe, whip, or broom, bound their hands and feet, and locked them in a bathroom, sometimes for days.
Police believe Nubia was beaten to death Feb. 11. On Valentine’s Day, her body was found stuffed in plastic bags and doused in a toxic chemical in the back of Jorge Barahona’s truck along the side of a busy highway. He is also charged with mutilating Nubia’s body by pouring toxic chemicals on her. Victor, who survived, was also in the truck, writhing in seizures and suffering from chemical burns.
The Barahonas were also accused of placing a plastic bag over Victor’s head to make it difficult for him to breathe and forcing the twins to stand or sit in a corner of a room for hours, according to an indictment handed down last week.
Yesterday, a tentative trial date was set for July.
The Department of Children and Families has also been scrutinized because workers ignored warnings from school officials that the girl was being abused. The couple was the subject of several abuse allegations before Nubia was killed.