Four years after she and her husband were originally arrested, a Hunt County woman received a lengthy prison sentence after being found guilty of using her adopted children as slave labor in a puppy mill operation.
Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Thursday morning that Barbara Barrett of Greenville has been found guilty of Continuous Trafficking of a Child in Hunt County and received a sentence of 99 years in jail.
Barrett and her husband, Jeffery Barrett, are accused of abusing and neglecting their adopted children while forcing them to work in a puppy mill attached to their home. Both were charged with Continuous Trafficking of Persons. Paxton’s Human Trafficking and Transnational Organized Crime Division assisted the Hunt County District Attorney in prosecution of Barrett.
As of Thursday morning prosecution was only proceeding against Barbara Barrett. Both had pleaded not guilty.
Prosecution on the felony indictments is under the jurisdiction of the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
Jurors in the 354th District Court Tuesday afternoon convicted Barbara Barrett on the indictment, and issued the sentence Wednesday.
Barrett had been out on bond and was reportedly not in attendance in the courtroom during much of the trial due to illness, but was on hand for the conviction and sentencing and was returned to the custody of the Hunt County Detention Center.
“It is heartbreaking to know this horrid abuse was happening in our state, and it is unfathomable that a person could be so heartless to abuse the foster care system and use children in need of a loving, safe home as slave labor,” Attorney General Paxton said. “There is no excuse for this evil behavior, and it will not be tolerated in our state. We can only hope this successful prosecution will bring some degree of justice to the children that were robbed of the love and care they deserved. I will never stop fighting against human trafficking.”
The charge is a first degree felony, punishable upon conviction by a maximum sentence of from five to 99 years to life in prison and an optional fine of up to $10,000.
The Barretts are also awaiting trials in the Hunt County Court at Law No. 2 on misdemeanor charges of cruelty to non-livestock animals.
On Sept. 25, 2017 the the SPCA of Texas joined with then-Hunt County Constable for Precinct 1 Terry Jones and the Hunt County Sheriff's Office in seizing 117 animals from a home on County Road 3103, off of Interstate 30.
Jones is currently the Hunt County Sheriff.
The agency reported the majority of the animals, 100 dogs and puppies, were housed in a metal addition to the brick home on the property and were found living in cages, crates and kennels, up to three dogs in each. Another 15 dogs and puppies and two cats were found inside the residence. The Barretts were said to have told investigators they were selling the dogs.
The investigation into the puppy mill was followed by allegations the couple forced their children to help run the business.
The Barretts were again arrested on Aug. 2, 2018, as a result of the investigation by the Human Trafficking and Transnational Organized Crime section of the Texas Attorney General’s office.
The Hunt County grand jury charged the Barretts on one count each of trafficking of persons-continuous.
Attorneys Jessica McDonald and Frederick Shelton had filed multiple motions in the felony case, seeking the quashing of the indictments, alleging the charges against the couple were unconstitutionally overboard and vague.
In response prosecutors lodged additional allegations against the Barretts, claiming the couple also sexually molested and exploited their children.
The Barrett’s filed an appeal with the Court of Appeals with the Fifth District of Texas at Dallas. A hearing on the appeal was conducted in November 2019.
The appeals court issued a decision July 17, 2020 denying the appeals.
An amendment to the indictments filed Sept. 1 alleged the Barretts “did knowingly traffic” the four children “through force, fraud or coercion” to “engage in forced labor or services” while the couple receiving a benefit from participating in the venture.
The trafficking charges are first degree felonies, punishable upon conviction by a maximum sentence of from five to 99 years to life in prison and an optional fine of up to $10,000.