Roman Barreras

The criminal case against a Tucson couple accused of starving their 3-year-old son to death in 2014 has been delayed a fourth time.

Raquel and Martin Barreras are now scheduled for a five-week trial beginning April 9, 2019.

Roman Barreras’ skeletal remains were found in March 2014 in an old toy chest left behind after his family moved from a south-side home. His parents were indicted by a Pima County grand jury on charges of first-degree murder, child abuse and concealing a body.

The parents will face separate juries during the same trial before Pima County Superior Court Judge Paul Tang.

Defense attorney Bobbi Berry asked earlier this year to have Martin Barreras’ case heard separately. She said she plans to target Raquel Barreras as part of his defense and that might mean her case would be “substantially prejudiced.”

The judge did not order separate trials, but instead decided there would be two juries hearing the state’s case at the same time.

Raquel Barreras’ defense attorney, John O’Brien, declined to comment on his client’s case or the plan for the trial.

Court records show one of the defense witnesses will testify the boy may have died of a neuroblastoma, a form of cancer found more commonly in young children.

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Roman’s mother allegedly used drugs while she was pregnant with Roman, court records say, and the couple’s four older children were removed by Child Protective Services in July 2010.

She failed to follow her CPS plan, but her husband still allowed her to have contact with the children, court records show, and the children were slowly returned home between August and November 2011.

After Roman was returned, police reports show he was kept in a crate in an external laundry room, with no heat or AC.

He was rarely fed and the other children were yelled at if they tried to feed him or visit him, police reports say.

Berry wrote that her client and the couple’s other children were “bullied by Raquel” and prevented from helping the boy.

Contact reporter Patty Machelor at or 806-7754. On Twitter: @pattymachstar


Patty covers issues pertaining to children and families as well as people living with disabilities. She previously reported on court cases, with an emphasis on juvenile court. She has worked for the Arizona Daily Star since 2001.