The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has dropped its bid for the death penalty against a Lancaster woman and her boyfriend, who are charged with murder and torture in connection with her 10- year-old son’s death, a prosecutor told a judge Thursday.
Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami — who has criticized new District Attorney George Gascon for a series of directives including one that advises that “a sentence of death is never an appropriate resolution in any case” — opposed the latest decision in the case of Heather Maxine Barron and Kareem Ernesto Leiva.
Barron, 31, and Leiva, 35, could now face a maximum of life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted as charged of murder and torture, along with the special-circumstance allegation of murder involving the infliction of torture, for Anthony Avalos’ June 2018 death.
“This is not based upon new evidence. This is not based upon new mitigation or new law. I stand by the special-circumstances committee decision that I announced to the court on the record two years ago,” Hatami said, referring to the August 2019 announcement that the death penalty would be sought against the two under prior District Attorney Jackie Lacey‘s administration.
Along with the murder charge, Barron and Leiva are facing two counts of child abuse involving two other children in the home. Leiva is also facing an allegation that he personally inflicted great bodily injury on one of the youngsters in circumstances involving domestic violence.
In court papers, prosecutors alleged that Anthony was severely tortured during the last five or six days of his life by Barron and Leiva, who “abused, beat, assaulted and tortured” him.
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 in Lancaster.
Authorities said they were told that the child had suffered injuries from a fall, but investigators quickly classified the death as “suspicious.”
The boy died early the next morning, authorities said.
The boy’s father, aunt, uncle and six of his half-siblings filed a lawsuit last summer against the county, alleging that multiple social workers failed to properly respond to reports of abuse of Anthony and his siblings.
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.
The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services 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 the DCFS statement.
Previous related stories:
Judge strikes punitive damages claim from lawsuit over Lancaster boy’s death
Family of slain 10-year-old Lancaster boy files multimillion-dollar suit against DCFS
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
8 comments for "DA drops bid for death sentence in 10-year-old Lancaster boy’s killing"
He NEVER should have been voted in!!!
He has a track record of BAD JUDGEMENTS
Too bad were not like Texas.
Tim Scott says
You are wishing for a failing power grid? Just give Wrecks time…he certainly is trying to siphon money out of the energy companies into his cronies pockets with reckless disregard for the consequences, just like they did in Texas.
Or were you talking about siphoning developer feed into crony pockets while allowing expansive housing to be built across a flood plain, like they did in Houston? Oh, no worries, Wrecks is down for that too.
Pretty much all the “great things” that GOP leadership has done to the people of Texas Wrecks is trying to do to you as fast as possible Ron, no worries.
The further abuse of victims of violent crimes and their loved ones should not be tolerated. Recall Gascon! https://recallgeorgegascon.com/
Gascon is a terrible DA. He needs to be voted out next time.
Or this time ,, now
Let those two worthless mongrels rot behind bars for the rest of their lives.