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Sisters Face Charges in Kids’ Death

September 9, 1998

SAN FERNANDO, Calif. (AP) _ Two sisters were charged with murder Wednesday for allegedly failing to stop a man who fathered 14 children between them from beating to death two of the children.

Prosecutors also charged the women _ the victims’ mother and aunt _ with assault in the killings of the 5-year-old boy, Ernesto, and 2-year-old girl, Guadalupe. Their bodies were found months apart buried in the Angeles National Forest.

Petra Barrera Ricardo, 34, is the wife of Marco Esquivel Barragon and mother of the two children who were killed. They had eight children. Her sister, Juana Barrera, had six children with Barragon.

Barragon, 35, is charged with murder and special circumstances, which could qualify him for the death penalty. He has pleaded innocent to murder and child abuse.

The women had previously been charged with the lesser crimes of accessory to murder and child endangerment.

Defense attorneys said they plan to ask for the murder charges to be dismissed.

``She didn’t even have custody of the children,″ defense attorney Alan Kessler said of his client, Petra Barrera. ``She had been kept in a garage, basically as a slave.″

At preliminary hearings last month, a medical examiner testified that the two children had broken ribs, arms and legs. Some of the injuries were inflicted months before their beating deaths.

While investigating Ernesto’s death, authorities were led by Barragon’s other children to Guadalupe’s grave a few miles away. In statements, Barragon’s other children testified he had been enraged at the 2-year- old for wetting her pants.

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