LANCASTER – A woman and her boyfriend pleaded not guilty Wednesday to torturing and murdering her 10-year-old son in Lancaster in a case in which the two could now face the death penalty if they are convicted.
The boy’s mother, Heather Maxine Barron, 29, and her boyfriend, Kareem Ernesto Leiva, 32, are charged with killing Anthony Avalos and torturing him in the days leading up to his June 21 death.
The murder charge includes a newly added special circumstance allegation of murder involving the infliction of torture, opening them to a possible death sentence. Prosecutors will decide later whether to seek the death penalty against the two, who have remained jailed without bail since they were arrested about a week after the boy’s death.
Along with the murder count, Barron and Leiva are charged with one count each of torture and child abuse — the latter involving Anthony’s younger half-brother.
Barron is also charged with a second child abuse count involving Anthony, while Leiva is charged with a count of assault on a child causing death.
The pair are due back in court in Lancaster Nov. 27, when a date will be set for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to require the two to stand trial.
In court papers filed in July, prosecutors contended that Anthony was severely tortured during the last five or six days of his life and alleged that Barron and Leiva “abused, beat, assaulted and tortured Anthony Avalos,”
The alleged abuse included whipping the boy with a belt and a looped cord, pouring hot sauce on his face and mouth, holding him by his feet and dropping him on his head repeatedly, according to the court papers.
Deputies and paramedics responded to a 911 call from Barron about 12:15 p.m. June 20 and found her son unresponsive inside his family’s apartment.
Authorities said they were told that the child had suffered injuries from a fall, but investigators quickly classified the death as “suspicious.”
The boy “survived through the night,” but “tragically succumbed to his injuries at 6:30 the following morning,” Sheriff Jim McDonnell told reporters in July.
At a July 17 news conference, an attorney representing the boy’s family called for a criminal investigation into social workers who investigated allegations of abuse in the household.
“This is a case of flat-out, deliberate indifference toward the life of Anthony Avalos,” the family’s attorney, Brian Claypool, said at a news conference outside the Los Angeles headquarters of the county Department of Children and Family Services. “These records that we have today clearly demonstrate and social workers within L.A. County DCFS had massive red flags of a household replete with horror, a household where many of the kids were allegedly abused, not just Anthony Avalos. Because of this, we are calling for a criminal investigation. We would like social workers investigated for child abuse and criminal negligence.”
Claypool — who was joined by the boy’s father, Victor Avalos, and the boy’s aunt and uncle, Maria and David Barron — said he has obtained documents that are a “recipe for a criminal investigation,” noting that the records show 18 separate investigations into the household by DCFS over a four- year period beginning in 2013 and 88 alleged instances of child abuse, sexual abuse and child neglect.
Speaking at the news conference in July, Anthony’s aunt, Maria Barron, said her nephew “did not deserve all the pain he endured.”
“Why? Why did DCFS fail him?” she asked. “Why did they not take action? He had so many people that loved him, so many people willing to take him in.”
In a statement released shortly after the family’s news conference, DCFS Director Bobby Cagle said, “As our department grieves the senseless death of Anthony Avalos, my primary focus must be on the in-depth, top-to-bottom review now underway to determine exactly what happened and what needs to happen to safeguard innocent lives going forward.”
“We also are committed to doing all we can to cooperate with the Sheriff’s Department as their criminal investigation proceeds,” he said. “Thank you for understanding that these are my most urgent priorities. We will be happy to share additional information and insights with you when appropriate.”
In June, the county Board of Supervisors approved a motion by Supervisor Kathryn Barger calling for a thorough review of why Anthony wasn’t removed from his family home, despite multiple reports to the DCFS.
“You had teachers, you had family members, you had law enforcement come in contact. And yet, Anthony’s at the morgue; we’re awaiting autopsy results,” Barger said. “One has to wonder what it’s going to take to get the attention of not only the social workers, but the public in general, because I’m told that neighbors also were aware of what was taking place.”
Barger and other county officials repeatedly said they would wait for all the facts to come in before drawing conclusions about exactly what happened to the boy. But Barger called it a “senseless murder,” explaining that “we don’t have a conclusion, but there’s no other explanation.”
Previous related stories:
Extensive DCFS involvement, 12 social workers didn’t save Lancaster boy
Slain boy’s family wants criminal investigation of social workers
Reports of abuse ended in 2016 for Anthony Avalos
Review of Antelope Valley child welfare services to follow boy’s death
Homicide detectives investigating suspicious death of 10-year-old Lancaster boy
21 comments for "Mother, boyfriend could now face death penalty in 10-year-old boy’s death"
Smmfh. It kills me. If DCFS didn’t have so many bullshit cases on families that had to lie on just to get their kids removed and actually got off their Ass and did the foot work they where supposed to do and actually did a legal investigation he would still be here. DCFS is just as guilty as the mom and boyfriend they have the authority to remove the boy the family couldn’t of did it without getting arrested for kidnapping so stop trying to give DCFS slack because they don’t deserve it at all. If every case they had was thoroughly investigated people will see that they are corrupted and it’s beyond out of control why do you think they get away with THEIR RIGHT TO LIE LEGALLY!!!! People please do your own investigation on DCFS and get the truth because it’s clear some of you have no idea……..
Put them in general population…mom, boyfriend and DCFS staff, who did not do their job. They will take care of it. It won’t be pretty.
Let them out in General population, they are responsible for their actions, DCFS, is crap, look at little Fernando, it’s time to hold slime parents responsible, you cant take care of the child, then send the child to relatives, in both cases there were family who wanted and loved them, sick of all of this, I guess, these babies were just a bigger paycheck, so they get free money
Really pisses me off the whole situation could have been prevented. My children and others have been removed for not even abuse but for aguments between spouse I did everything I could to get my children back it took 18 months because I no longer had housing once my children were removed. All I know is that they remove the wrong children and Allowed children that needed to be removed to stay in the home of horrors.
Kimberly K says
2018>> “10-year-old Anthony Avalos who was tortured and murdered by his *momster* Heather Maxine Barron age 29, and her 32-year-old boyfriend Kareem Ernesto Leiva, are both charged in his murder. They are behind bars and expected to be arraigned next month.”
Eerily similar cases between these psychopathic “momsters” and monsters. The momsters were both 29 yrs. old at the time, and their monster BF’s age 32.
Once again- major fail for the DCFS and the Antelope Valley’s social workers. Both these boys deaths could have been prevented. WTF!? Why hadn’t there been a long overdue major investigation, and complete rehaul of the dismal failure DCFS has again and again displayed.
2013>> “8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez was tortured and beaten to death by his *momster* Pearl Sinthia Fernandez age 29 and her 32-year-old boyfriend Isauro Aguirre. They were charged with one count each of capital murder following the fatal beating of her son Gabriel Fernandez.”
Look at their photos…. Nothing good about them…. Another child murdered and CPS knew he was being abused once again an innocent child dies with numerous reports. Filed…. Failed system…. Sad.
The problem is the government that continues to support families with this many kids!! Stop having kids if you cannot support them!! All these woman having kids because welfare continues to pay their way in life. Laws need to change. It should be illegal to have this many kids and receive low income privileges. All the kids she had in that house had to be overwhelming. So of course she whent crazy. Plus that low life guy that lived who obviously was trash and had nothing going for him. They both deserve the death penelty. But it shouldn’t take years!! Should be a 3-6 month turn around so everyone can move on.
Thankyou!!! Totally agree on this.
Hope Dayboth Burn says
as said in an old cowboy movie, “Let’s give them a proper trial with a proper judge and jury… followed by a proper hanging with a proper rope!”
This ugly [removed] killed her son over a ugly worth less scum she deserves to rot in prison. She has always been a hoodrat.
What is wrong with people?
They are low life pieces of caca
Dont Fear DeReaper says
i think they should die the same way they killed the young boy- except nobody takes them to an ER… just let them die slowly….
Jason h says
Maybe the government is or is not partially to blame but its a joke to blame them without acknowledging that the actual accused killers are the mom and her boyfriend. The government cant save everyone.
I agree. The mother and her boyfriend tortured this small child and then murdered him. A mother protects her child. A mother does not allow anyone to harm what she brings into this world. Both are very disturbed human beings and both need to be admitted to a Mental Institutions for life. Prison is not for these 2. They are both very mentally ill and they need to be institutionalized so that they can never hurt another human being.
The Social Workers absolutely lacked making sure this child was safe, for what reason, only they know. The Social Workers have to live with their decision to leave this child in an unfit home, a HEAVY burden to carry. But at the end of the day, mom and boyfriend committed this heinous crime and they are both very mentally sick.
I am certain both will be put to death, and if not death, life in prison. (Although I hope placed in a Mental Institution)
You suffer no more Anthony. Fly with the Angels.
Your right you can’t put all blame on child services the monster who birthed him is the one supposed to be caring for him not killing him smh.
Hang those 2 low life’s
On a crane.
This is the second high-profile case involving DCFS incompetence or indifference in recent years.
RIP Anthony Avalos.
Lupe Gonzalez says
Honestly you can’t trust the system!! This is a clear example on how the system FAILS YOU!!!! That poor kid didn’t deserve it I hope his mother rots in hell for what she did to him…. I remember that girl when she was young she’s was wildin…poor bitch never stood a chance at life……
Even the rich commit crimes. Crime does not discriminate.