LOS ANGELES – Relatives of a 10-year-old Lancaster boy who died after what prosecutors allege was extensive torture by his mother and her boyfriend announced a $50 million lawsuit against Los Angeles County Thursday, alleging social workers botched the handling of his case.
The Los Angeles Superior Court suit was filed on behalf of the father, aunt, uncle and six half-siblings of Anthony Avalos, who died June 21, 2018.
Anthony’s mother, Heather Maxine Barron, 29, and her boyfriend, Kareem Leiva, 33, remain jailed without bail while awaiting trial on torture and murder charges, along with the special circumstance of murder involving the infliction of torture.
Prosecutors allege that Anthony was severely tortured during the last five or six days of his life by his mother and Leiva. 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 a prosecution court filing.
The lawsuit accuses the county and multiple social workers of failing to properly respond to reports of abuses of Anthony — and his siblings.
“You will see that there were so many times where these kids disclosed to DCFS how bad it was,” attorney Brian Claypool told reporters at a news conference announcing the lawsuit. “DCFS workers actually saw these kids getting abused and the still did nothing about it.”
DCFS issued a statement declining to comment on the specifics of the suit, but generally defending the agency’s work.
“At any given time, the Department of Children and Family Services serves more than 34,000 families and vulnerable children in Los Angeles County with an unwavering commitment to pursue child safety every day in our communities,” according to the agency. “Our 9,000 employees do not take this commitment lightly and look to do everything possible to safeguard the children in our care.
“All DCFS employees are held the highest standards to ensure that the public trust in our service is honored and maintained,” according to DCFS.
The lawsuit cites other high-profile deaths of children who were also being monitored by DCFS — 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez and 4-year-old Noah Cuatro, both of Palmdale — to allege “systemic failures” in the agency.
“Among the action needed to work on these systemic failures was the training of social workers in various areas, including on how to interview children,” according to the lawsuit. “DCFS employees have not been trained on how to effectively interview young children.
“Anthony’s death was not unexpected, neither was the abuse faced by his half-siblings. DCFS records show that DCFS was complicit in the abuse and neglect of Anthony and his half-siblings, and ultimately in Anthony’s death. The records show that DCFS failed to properly investigate claims of physical and sexual abuse, including, but not limited to their interviews, failure to review DCFS history, failure to coordinate with law enforcement, violating their own policies, failing to complete Structured Decision Making Tool timely and truthfully and failing to adjudicate despite the presence of exigency and imminent danger to Anthony and his half-siblings,” according to the lawsuit.
The suit requests damages in excess of $50 million.
Previous related stories:
Attorney: Family denied custody of two of slain boy’s half-siblings
Judge unseals grand jury transcript in Anthony Avalos’ death
Mother, boyfriend could now face death penalty in 10-year-old boy’s death
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
20 comments for "Family of slain 10-year-old Lancaster boy files multimillion-dollar suit against DCFS"
Since everyone thinks that being a social worker is an easy job, and want to make changes. This is your time now. DCFS just released the opening for CHILDREN’S SOCIAL WORKER TRAINEE / NORTH COUNTY (Antelope Valley Area). The majority of you all think you can do a better job here’s your chance. I’m sure with your educated comments you all must all hold a bachelors degree and easily qualify.
Daisy…Does it take a bachelors degree to falsify records?
Donald T says
@Blanche & Wow
Where I come from, we call what DCFS has done, is doing, KIDNAPPING.
@Blanch and Wow
Where I come from, what DCFS has done, is doing, we call that KIDNAPPING.
Erica Gillespie says
I have proof that they lied on me and my kids I have so much proof what they have done to my family and no one will here us this is sad this is Violation of my civil rights and discrimination this is unreal I wish they will Investigate my case they will what they have done to me.
I agree in holding DCFS accountable for this. And also an investigation well over due. But to provide these ridiculous family members that suddenly show up from under the rocks! Is soooooo not okay! When in the dang world we’re their concern and care for this baby boy! But he is Resting now and now they give a dam to sue!!! Hell no! Lock their asses up too for trying to get money from this situation! Had they gave a F! This baby would be alive! And please do post when this is over who the he they are! That deserves a ton of rallying against their actions of cashing in! SOBs!
Red to Green says
I agree. Family members that witnessed this child suffering first hand have just as much blood in their hands as DCFS for not intervening. DCFS cannot be there 24/7. A cash settlement to the family is wrong.
Or…you know…the family could have stepped in.
Dr Susan Spell just sued L A County DCFS for $750 million…read about it in Epoch Times.
Perhaps, this lawsuit will finally bring about the changes needed to protect the children! I hope they win!
Yes, that they win for a change in the system! Not to Cash in on this babies death!! When they clearly didn’t give a dam earlier!!!
I agree sue DCFS, to show the public how unorganized the system is. Asking for 50 million is wrong a family really wanting change would sue for a dollar to prove a point. This family is just out for a quick retirement on the death of a family member who they could have helped other ways. Call the sheriff 50 million times, plead with the mother to take the boy. If they knew and really cared kidnap the poor boy. Do all you can do to save a innocent life.
Dr Strangelove says
Tom, you didn’t read the Susan Spell story in Epoch Times…you ignorant so and so.
Dr. Susan Spell is crazy. Cunning like a serpent.
Wow, Just Wow! says
Blanche, Dr. Spell is certainly not crazy. You’re the one who is like a serpent. I’d like to remind you of the 8th Commandment: Thou shall not bear false witness. That being said, I’d like to provide the readers with the testimony from a couple of former DCFS employees. “In a July 2019 affidavid … the agency FALSIFIES EVIDENCE to justify taking children from their parents”.
DCFS officials went to the school where Dr. Spells children were and removed them. They LIED and apparently intimidated the school officials into surrendering the children. DCFS claimed they had a warrant and a restraining order; they had neither.
The declaration of Melinda Murphy a DCFS employee for 10 years illustrates the pattern of behavior by DCFS. Murphy said, “she observed misconduct. If one social worker didn’t like another, she would recommend the kids would not go home…A supervisor would say WE ARE NEVER SENDING THESE KIDS HOME, no matter what. That’s not the way it was supposed to be done. I would say 30 PERCENT of ALL CASES were marked by departmental or personal or political biases.”
Murphy further testified, ” During my training, my observations, and in my work experiences, I learned that the DCFS does not have a mechanism for backing down and has a tendency, even if the parent is innocent, to MAKE THEM APPEAR GUILTY IN SOME WAY, AND THAT INCLUDES PERJURING TESTIMONY, FALSIFYING REPORTS, AND FABRICATING EVIDENCE to justify taking children.”
According to THE EPOCH TIMES, Murphy signed the affidavit on July 10, 2019.
AV DCFS MISCONDUCT VICTIM PARENT TO A CHILD VICTIM says
Erica Gillespie leave a way to contact you. As for the taxpayers who will ultimately foot the bill for DCFS gross negligence, right the DOJ get the AV department under a federal review. Hold these peopke accountable for your tax dollars. The lives of children traumatized and ABUSED by the very entity PAID to protect them. Babby Boy you are correct. People please don’t be misinformed thinking the sheriff’s department provides much more assistance to these issues. At this moment a child who suffered injuries, told the police, told AV DCFS she was being abused placed her with her abuser. This IS AV DCFS. Our children and our rights are being trampled. I tell everyone to write the DOJ. They told me as soon as they have the required amount of complaints concerning this department, they will be subjected to a federal review.
Babby Boy says
I just have to laugh at your feeble minded suggestions/solutions offered. Kidnapping?! Really, so they can all end up in prison for 25 years.
And people don’t sue to ” show how disorganized” dcfs is…no, they sue because without dcfs that child would still be alive.
And, dcfs operates under a cloak of secrecy – theres no such thing as just stepping in.
And, calling the sheriffs (even 50 million times) – wait – I need time to recover to this hearty laugh. You obviously don’t understand our Sheriffs approach to law enforcement…”sorry sir, it is a civil matter. You’ll have to call dcfs.”
Babby Boy…The state removing children from the family for medical reasons, which can be for any reason deemed fit by the state. Kind of scary, right?
If one of my family members was being harmed me doing 25 years is nothing compared to the death of a little innocent child. The family of this little boy let him die doing nothing. Three young boys have been killed in this valley if a government agency won’t do the job then someone has to, and your words show you have no balls to protect your loved ones.
System Failure says
A federal investigation into the DCFS is long overdue.