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BOY'S BODY FOUND; DAD, AUNT HELD BOY FOUND BURIED IN FOREST.

Byline: Jesse Hiestand Daily News Staff Writer

The father and aunt of a 5-year-old Pacoima boy found buried in the Angeles National Forest were arrested Monday on suspicion of killing the child after sheriff's deputies happened upon the family at a makeshift grave, authorities said.

Sheriff's officials said it appears the father and aunt, who together have their own children, enlisted the help of the boy's siblings to bury Ernesto Barrera, whose body was found late Sunday when deputies stopped to investigate an unoccupied car on Lopez Canyon Road.

``The only way we can figure this is that (Ernesto's siblings) wanted to be here to bury the child, and we believe the two boys assisted the father in actually digging the grave,'' said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Lt. Ray Peavy.

``I think they wanted to be here - to say goodbye to their younger brother.''

At first, detectives thought the boy might have died naturally and his family was too poor to pay for a proper burial.

The father, Marco Barragon, fathered 11 children with two sisters: Petra Barrera and the victim's aunt, Guana Barrera. Petra Barrera was not arrested Monday and is not considered a suspect, said Deputy Debra Glafkides.

Deputies said they did not know whether Barragon was married to either sister.

But after questioning Guana Barrera, the father, his 9-year-old daughter and two 14-year-old twin sons, investigators concluded Monday that the death was a homicide, Peavy said.

Barragon, 34, and Barrera, 28, were booked at the Crescenta Valley sheriff's station on one count of murder each and were denied bail, Peavy said.

Three of the children immediately were taken into protective custody and six other children, as young as 3 months old, were to be taken into protective custody later Monday.

Homicide detectives did not disclose the possible cause of death.

Peavy said there were no obvious signs of trauma on the body, which was clothed and wearing a crucifix.

Autopsy results were expected by Wednesday.

A forensic anthropologist from the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office carefully unearthed the body Monday afternoon from sandy soil behind dense brush off Lopez Canyon Road, about 1-1/2 miles north of Paxton Street.

``We are told that the intent was to bring the body up here and bury it so the family could be in a position to come visit it on weekends,'' Peavy said.

It was there late Sunday, about 11 p.m., that two deputies stopped to check an apparently abandoned Honda Accord when they saw Barragon and one of his sons walking out of the forest, Peavy said.

Barragon said he was relieving himself but the deputies heard voices from the nearby brush and found the victim's aunt, sister and one of his brothers standing around a freshly turned patch of dirt.

One of the victim's hands was protruding from the ground and a deputy uncovered the victim's body.

CAPTION(S):

Photo, map

PHOTO (color) A dead boy was found near this car parked off Lopez Canyon Road.

Terri Thuente/Daily News

Map: Boy's body found
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 3, 1998
Words:509
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