Thursday, June 20, 2002
Veteran Deputy District Attorney Barreto-Morehouse Dies at Age 52
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Visitation will be held tomorrow and services Saturday for longtime Deputy District Attorney Margaret Ann Barreto-Morehouse, who died Tuesday morning at Providence-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Burbank of complications following pulmonary surgery.
Barreto-Morehouse, who died after a lengthy illness, was 52.
Barreto-Morehouse, the sister of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Antonio Barreto Jr., was a 22-veteran of the District Attorney’s Office.
Friends and colleagues, who knew Barreto-Morehouse as Margo, remembered her as a dedicated lawyer who was more than willing to put in long hours to get the job done right, and always with a smile.
“She was always concerned about doing the right thing, doing the proper thing, being fair, not only to our side, but also the other side,” Deputy District Attorney Lydia Bodin said.
Last assigned to the Auto Fraud Division, Barreto-Morehouse continued to appear in court even when her difficulty breathing allowed her to walk only short distances.
“She couldn’t do anything halfway,” Barreto said. “She couldn’t even do anything 98 percent. It had to be 100 percent or more.”
After spending seven years as a Spanish teacher at Westlake school in Bel-Air, Barreto-Morehouse, the elder of the two siblings, made a “stunning” dinner table announcement that she was going to become a paralegal, Barreto said.
But that didn’t make sense to Barreto, who had watched his “perfect student” sister excel in the academic world and suggested that she take another route.
“I told her ‘if you have an interest in law, why don’t you go to law school?’” Barreto said. “‘That’s a good idea,’ she said.”
After attending Southwestern University School of Law’s two-year program, Barreto-Morehouse once again followed her brother, signing on with the District Attorney’s Office in 1980, where for the first time she experienced what is was like to be “Tony’s sister” instead of the other way around, he said.
Drawing on her skills as a teacher, Barreto-Morehouse soon distinguished herself in the courtroom, meticulously explaining every detail of her case, Barreto said. She was effective in the courtroom and her compassion allowed her to connect with victims, he commented.
“When you’re dealing with children that sort of caring and kindness goes a long way to help you with your witnesses,” Bodin added.
Assigned to Juvenile Division, she jumped to prosecuting child sexual abuse crimes when then-Deputy-in-Charge Sandy Buttitta handpicked her after seeing her in action.
“She was such an excellent trial lawyer,” Buttitta, who assigned Barreto-Morehouse to the high-profile sex abuse cases, said.
She went on to serve as a deputy-in-charge and later as assistant head deputy in Van Nuys before being tapped in 1992, again by Buttitta, to serve as special assistant to the chief deputy, a post which she held for five years.
Notorious for doing random acts of kindness, Barreto-Morehouse would arrange for an especially comfortable chair for a pregnant friend or remember someone’s favorite lunch spot and take them there for their birthday.
“Margaret was one of those people who was the definition of decency,” Bodin said.
Bodin was sent to Sacramento with Barreto-Morehouse to testify on legislation. When Barreto-Morehouse recognized Bodin was a “white knuckler flier” she spent the entire flight talking to her to distract her from her fear, not teasing her or even making note of her fear, but just talking to her.
“I’ve never forgotten that,” Bodin said.
Also known for her personal flair, colleagues said it was not uncommon for Barreto-Morehouse to show up in the sea of black suits that permeate the District Attorney’s Office in a deep pink or blue ensemble.
Born Aug. 30, 1949 in New Bedford, Mass., the daughter of Portuguese immigrants moved to California with her family at the age of three. She graduated from Hollywood High School in 1967 as class valedictorian and member of the Ephebian Society.
Barreto-Morehouse graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from UCLA in 1971. She continued her studies at the school and received her M.A. in Spanish literature.
A devoted UCLA fan, Barreto-Morehouse and her husband of 27 years, David Morehouse, were longtime season ticket holders for Bruin basketball and football.
She also sang in the choir of the First Baptist Church of Hollywood and served on the church’s Board of Trustees.
Besides her husband and brother, she is survived by her mother, Maria Barreto, and four nephews. Her father, Antonio Barreto Sr., died in 1992.
Tomorrow’s visitation will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. at Forest Lawn in Hollywood Hills. Saturday’s memorial service will be at 1 p.m. at the Church of the Hills at Forest Lawn.
In lieu of flowers, the family asked that donations may be made to the Margaret Barreto-Morehouse Scholarship Fund at Southwestern University School of Law, 675 S. Westmoreland Avenue, Los Angeles, California, 90005.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company