Siblings of the 3-year-old boy whose skeletal remains were found Tuesday told investigators their mother starved their brother to death, court records reveal.
In an interim complaint filed by police with Pima County Justice Court, the children of Raquel Marcella Barreras said their mother starved Roman Barreras and put his body in a toy chest in the backyard.
Barreras, 39, was booked into the Pima County jail Tuesday and faces one count each of first-degree murder and child abuse. Her husband, Martin Raymond Barreras, 45, also was jailed and faces one count of child abuse.
The complaint states Martin Barreras knew his wife was abusing the boy and confronted her “but did nothing further to stop her from starving (the) child.”
The couple has four other children, a 12-year-old son and three daughters ages 4, 7 and 19.
Earlier this year, the couple were evicted from a triplex unit in the 700 block of West Idaho Street near South 12th Avenue and West Nebraska Street on the south side.
The landlord, who was cleaning up the property and throwing out belongings the family left behind, found Roman’s skeletal remains.
Roman was apparently forced to live in a room behind the unit, Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor said at a news conference Wednesday.
A neighbor said the family had lived in the triplex since April 2013.
Police officers had been called to the house before, primarily because the older children had failed to attend school, but officers said the children appeared to be in good health and they did not see any signs that the children were being abused, Villaseñor said.
Raquel Barreras was found guilty in December 2008 of shoplifting and of contributing to the delinquency of a dependent minor when her children failed to attend school, court records show. In January 2011, she was found guilty of theft.
In 2009, she pleaded guilty to stealing a prescription pad from a south-side medical clinic and attempting to fill a prescription for oxycodone. A presentencing report stated Barreras became addicted to the narcotic in 2003 or 2004 when she was given oxycodone for a misdiagnosis of fibromyalgia. The doctor who prescribed the drug eventually had his medical license revoked.
Barreras twice violated her probation and failed to complete a residential drug treatment program and was sentenced to serve six months in jail, court records show.
No serious previous charges were found in court records for Martin Barreras.
In 2010, while on probation, Raquel Barreras was in a drug treatment program. Roman was born in July of that year.
Child Protective Services took the infant while Barreras was still in the hospital because she tested positive for methadone, court records show. At that time, all five of her children were in state protective custody. Eventually, the state agency returned the children to the custody of Martin Barreras.
Child welfare caseworkers last had contact with the family in August 2012, said a spokeswoman for the state’s Division of Child Safety and Family Services, formerly Child Protective Services. She would not provide details.
Court records show the couple lost their home to foreclosure in 2006. Since moving out of the rental unit on West Idaho Street, they have been living in a south-side home near the Tucson Rodeo Grounds.
More than 20 members of the couple’s extended family attended a news conference Thursday morning. They agreed Raquel and Martin Barreras began distancing themselves from relatives several years ago, and during chance meetings with family members they seemed evasive and secretive, especially when asked about Roman.
“If we saw them, they would just walk away from us. They were very secretive,” said Frank Aguilar, Martin’s brother-in-law.
Much of the time the extended family didn’t even know where Raquel, Martin and their children were living, Aguilar said.
The last time any of the family members remembered seeing Roman was in 2012. Several said they called CPS out of concern for the children.
Neighbors at the Idaho Street address said the family members kept to themselves, sometimes asking to use an outdoor water hose or to borrow milk. They said the parents often allowed the children to play outside in the early-morning hours.