The arrest form was shocking, but so was the home on West Flagler Street.
Used needles littered a dirty windowsill beside a bilingual Bible. Piles of brightly colored toys and soiled, smelly clothes covered the floor where cockroaches scurried through kitty litter between two stained mattresses. The smell was overwhelming; a blend of human filth, animal excrement and the stench from an empty, mildewed refrigerator.
As for the adult occupants, Gabriel de Jesus Orellana and Renee Marie Garcia, they were in jail Friday, charged with child neglect and possession of drug paraphernalia. The arrest form by Miami police said they may have been offering their four children two boys and two girls between the ages of 7 and 13 for prostitution.
This weeks investigation began with a 911 call to report that Orellana was on a nearby street, hitting his daughter and allegedly soliciting men to have sex with her. When an undercover officer approached on Thursday and inquired, Orellana proffered the phone number of Garcia, the childs mother.
Garcia answered the phone call from the undercover cop and agreed to have sex with him in exchange for money if he took her to buy drugs first. He took her to the Overtown area, watching her buy what looked like marijuana. When they got back to the apartment at 971 W. Flagler, the officer arrested both Garcia and Orellana.
The kids were taken temporarily by the Department of Children & Families.
The allegations of child prostitution remain under investigation, police said.
Neighbors interviewed by The Herald said they knew that something was wrong in the corner apartment where the door was always closed and the children were dirty and hungry. David Basterrechea, the building repairman who lives right across the hall, said the family had been in the complex for five months, but everyone was worried about the barefoot children who would roam at all hours of the night.
Basterrechea said he knew that the family was pressed for cash. Recently, he started seeing the children selling boxes of candy near the Walgreens down the street. A few weeks ago, Garcia, the mother, bragged to him that a stranger had offered her money to take the girls to the park and let him watch them play.
I was thinking, wheres this guy I wanted to wring his neck for being such a sicko, Basterrechea said. But she was like, no, were going to wait until Gabe [Orellana] gets home and then were going to rob him.
Although that plan never unfolded to his knowledge, Basterrechea suspected that the parents were having their children sell more than candy. He said when the Miami police officer who was part of the undercover operation asked Orellana if he could have sex with one of the girls, the father named a price for either one of his young daughters ages 11 and 8.
The police report said that Garcia was the only one who offered to have sex with the undercover officer.
Neighbors said they saw strangers, only men, come and go all the time.
DCF had investigated the Orellana family before, and the children were not supposed to have any contact with their mother, according to agency spokeswoman Lissette Valdes-Valle. They were apparently aware of this restriction and were taught to lie about their relationship to their mother, neighbors said. They told their friends that their mother had died in a car crash when she drove off a bridge many years ago, and the woman living in the apartment was their stepmother.