Among the claim bills advanced Thursday is one approving $3.75 million payment in the death of Nubia Barahona.
The payment from the Department of Children and Families would also compensate for injuries to Nubia’s twin brother Victor Barahona. The legislation, passed by the House Judiciary Committee, was filed by Miami Republican Jose Felix Diaz and Plantation Democrat Katie Edwards (HB 6523).
The case began February 2011, when Nubia Barahona’s decomposing body was found in the bed of her father’s pickup truck on I-95 in Palm Beach County. Victor Barahona was discovered convulsing in the truck. Both children had been doused with toxic chemicals.
“Over the years they were tortured, they were subjected to all sorts of abuse, mental and physical and sexual,” Diaz told the committee. “Ultimately, DCF dropped the ball quite a few times, and the sister ended up dead, and the brother ended up almost dead, doused in chemicals, and he’s lived to tell the tale.”
A report commissioned by then-DCF Secretary David Wilkins found the agency’s “failure in common sense, critical thinking, ownership, follow-through, and timely and accurate information-sharing” defined the care of Nubia and Victor.
Sponsoring the bill is Miami Republican Anitere Flores (SB 18), who had been sponsoring the bill for the past four years, as has Diaz.
“He’s run this bill every year since we were freshmen in 2011, and hopefully this will be the year we get across the finish line,” said Tampa Republican Shawn Harrison.
Another claims bill passed by the committee was HB 6511 sponsored by Orlando Republican Mike Miller. It would create a Trust for Leticia Thomas, in a case that goes back to the mid-1990s.
DCF removed Thomas and her infant brother when she was 14 months old because they were not receiving adequate care. The agency temporarily placed the children into the home of the children’s great aunt and uncle, Vicki and Eddie Thomas.
A subsequent background check found Eddie Thomas had been charged with larceny (though not convicted). The background check did not reveal any prior history of violence, sex offenses or child abuse. After an investigation, DCF determined that the Thomases could provide a safe environment for the children.
However, in August 1996 — approximately a year after the two children had been placed in the Thomases home — Eddie Thomas was charged with committing a lewd and lascivious act on a minor, and ultimately convicted of a child sex crime.
In May 1997, DCF recommended (and a judge approved) an order allowing Eddie Thomas to return home and have unsupervised contact with the children. He went on to sexually abuse Ms. Thomas.
“The good news, Mr. Chairman, is that she’s now 21 years old and in college to become a therapist and would like to specialize treating traumatized children,” Miller said.