A family still mourning the death of a 6-year-old boy killed last year was shocked to see a picture of the child used in a recent soap opera on SOAPnet. The ABC television network has since apologized, calling the bizarre soap opera slip-up an indefensible error.
A photo of Christopher Barrios, a 6-year-old Georgia boy who was killed in 2007, was used as a prop in a scene of GENERAL HOSPITAL: NIGHT SHIFT.
A Channel 4 viewer who also watches SOAPnet and is a fan of the soap opera brought the picture to the attention of the local station in Georgia. She said she recognized Christopher's photo being used on the show and decided to send an e-mail.
Christopher's grandmother, Sue Rodriquez, said she had no idea how the network obtained the photo and they have no right to use it in an entertainment program.
"Oh my God have mercy," Rodriquez said after seeing Christopher's picture on the show. "They ain't got no right doing that -- not a bit of right."
She cried as she watched a clip from the soap opera. She said it still hurts to think about her grandson, who was kidnapped, raped and murdered in March 2007.
"That baby meant the world to us, and people don’t have the right to do this kind of stuff. That's our baby," Rodriquez said.
In the soap opera, Billy Dee Williams plays a hospital worker. In the episode in which Christopher's photo appeared, Williams' character apparently received a letter and a photo from a son he abandoned. The photo was of Christopher.
Channel 4 has the same picture of the Christopher, which provided by the Barrios family to media outlets during the March 2007 search for the boy.
"First, who gave them permission to use his picture? Second, I'm glad I don’t watch this kind of mess -- soap operas -- because if I had seen Christopher's picture on there, I would have gone nuts," Rodriquez said.
ABC, which produces the show, told Channel 4's Jennifer Bauer it does not know how they got the photo.
The network offered the following apology:
"While the production team would never have knowingly chosen this particular photo, its use was a terrible error. We offer our deepest condolences to the Barrios family for their loss and our sincerest apologies for any pain caused by our mistake. In the coming weeks, SOAPnet will air a series of public service announcements in Christopher's honor, to raise awareness of missing and exploited children. Meanwhile, the episode is being edited to permanently remove the photo, and we have taken steps, including reviewing internal processes to determine how it happened in hopes of preventing this type of mistake from occurring again."
Rodriquez said knowing that such an error would hopefully never happen again makes her very happy.