Trial is scheduled for a local couple, charged with allegedly using their adopted children as slave labor in a puppy mill operation.
Jury selection is set to begin in the 354th District Court Monday morning in the trial of Jeffery and Barbara Barrett, who have each pleaded not guilty an indictment of trafficking of persons-continuous.
The Barretts, both of Greenville, are also awaiting trials in the Hunt County Court at Law No. 2 on misdemeanor charges of cruelty to non-livestock animals.
The felony cases are in line to be considered first.
Prosecution on the felony indictments is under the jurisdiction of the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
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 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.