MIAMI — Victor Bustillo hadn't seen or heard from his children Nubia and Victor in close to eight years, since the state took custody of the twins, then toddlers, after he was convicted of abusing a minor.
It wasn't until last week, when Bustillo saw news reports detailing how his daughter's dead body was stuffed in a plastic bag in the back of her adoptive father's pick-up truck, and his son was severely burned with hazardous chemicals, that Bustillo realized what had become of his children.
"This is hard," Bustillo said Tuesday outside his Miami apartment. "Imagine what I could be feeling right now."
The twins' adoptive father, Jorge Barahona, 53, now faces an attempted murder charge in connection with Victor's injuries. The boy was found in the front seat of Barahona's truck in West Palm Beach, seizing and covered in an unknown toxic chemical, and is now being treated at Holtz Children's Hospital in Miami.
Police and the state Department of Children and Families are still investigating Nubia's death. Meanwhile, two other children adopted by Barahona and his wife Carmen, 60, have been placed in a foster home.
Bustillo, 56, from El Salvador, said he did everything he could back in 2004 to keep custody of the twins, who had been under his care after the state terminated their mother's parental rights because of abuse, drug use and alleged prostitution.
"I never wanted to give up my parental rights, but they took my kids away," he added. "I did everything they asked me to do, but they took them away anyway."
Bustillo's criminal past and alleged neglect of his children, however, prevented him from keeping them. The state moved to terminate his parental rights in 2005.
According to the state's petition, Bustillo was an unfit father because of domestic violence, abandonment and medical neglect. Nubia was born with an unknown medical condition that required her to take medication, according to state officials.
In 2004, Bustillo was arrested and accused of pulling a 10-year-old girl into an apartment and touching her crotch in the presence of a 2-year-old child. The petition says that Bustillo admitted to molesting the girl in a taped confession.