Skeletal Remains Found in Toy Chest Belonged to 3-Year-Old Boy Whose Mom Starved Him to Death
An Arizona mother has been found guilty of starving her three-year old son to death and then putting his body into a toy box.
On Friday, a jury in Tucson found Raquel Barreras guilty of first-degree murder and felony child abuse, PEOPLE confirms. She had previously pleaded guilty to four other charges in the case, including abandoning or concealing a dead body and three child abuse counts.
The case began to unfold in March of 2014, when Barreras’ landlord was cleaning the unit after evicting her when he discovered a tiny skull and several bones inside the toy chest. Mark Weisbrod testified during the trial that he initially believed he’d discovered a Halloween decoration.
But the remains belonged to Roman Barreras, who had died sometime between the spring of 2013 and January 2014, police say. He was 3 years old.
The prosecution alleged that Barreras, 44, starved her son, and would not allow anyone to feed the boy. She allegedly kept him in the toy chest and would not allow her other children to speak or play with the boy.
“It took Roman a long time to die,” Deputy Pima County Attorney Virginia Aspacher told jurors during the opening statements, according to Tucson.com. “It took him a long time to starve to death.”
Anspacher told the jurors that the toy box was eventually moved to an outdoor laundry room. There, she said, the toddler suffered alone and eventually died of starvation.
When the Barreras family was evicted from their home, they allegedly left the boy’s bones behind.
Barreras was represented by Public Defender Cynthia Yializis. In her opening statements, Yializis acknowledged that her client had made mistakes, but disputed that she intentionally killed her son.
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Yializis asked jurors to consider that Roman’s allegedly “indifferent father” should have stopped the death. She also alleged that the state’s Department of Child Safety should have known that Barreras was incapable of raising Roman because she was “overwhelmed by addiction, poverty and depression.”
PEOPLE confirms that Raquel Barreras and her husband, Martin Raymond Barreras, had two prior cases with DCS.
“She was not a good mother,” Yializis said, “but she did not want her son to die.”
Roman’s father, Martin Barreras, has also been charged with first-degree murder. He will face trial in August. PEOPLE was not immediately able to reach his attorney.
Barreras will be sentenced on July 22. She faces the possibility of life in prison without parole.