Los Angeles County would pay $32 million under a tentative settlement of a lawsuit filed by relatives of a 10-year-old Lancaster boy who died in 2018 after allegedly being subjected to extensive torture by his mother and her boyfriend, attorneys said Wednesday.
The settlement of the county’s portion of the lawsuit over the death of Anthony Avalos was announced in court last week, but no terms were disclosed. Attorneys for the family held a news conference Wednesday, May 11, to announce the $32 million settlement amount, which is still pending approval from the county Board of Supervisors. The lawsuit accused the county and multiple social workers of failing to properly respond to reports of abuses of Anthony and his half-siblings.
“This little boy should not have endured anything that he did,” plaintiffs’ attorney Brian E. Claypool said. “Anthony knows he did not die in vain because he died so other kids could live.”
The settlement leaves Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services as the only defendant in the lawsuit brought in July 2019. That part of the case is set for trial Sept. 6.
Claypool said he and the Avalos family will urge that three new laws be enacted in the wake of Anthony’s death, including one that would require county social workers to communicate with a mental health agency such as Hathaway-Sycamores so the agency knows the child’s full history before commencing work. Claypool also said the time for abused children to file claims against the county is six months, just as with adults, far too short a period for someone so young.
“It’s just completely inexcusable and makes no sense,” Claypool said, adding that the time for filing should be extended to when the child is 18 years old.
The suit alleges Hathaway-Sycamores assigned employee Barbara Dixon to work with the family even though she had allegedly not reported abuse in the case of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez of Palmdale, who, like Anthony, was killed while in the care of his mother and her boyfriend. According to Claypool, Dixon was an unlicensed intern, and his third suggestion for a new law is that all such workers be mandated to be licensed.
In their court papers, attorneys for Hathaway-Sycamores state the plaintiffs make no allegations as to what Dixon allegedly witnessed or whether she suspected any abuse that was not already part of what the county Department of Children and Family Services already knew.
A grand jury indicted Heather Maxine Barron, 32, and Kareem Ernesto Leiva, 36, in October 2018 on charges that they murdered Anthony and abused two other children in the household. The District Attorney’s Office in May 2021 reversed course and announced it would no longer seek the death penalty against the pair, who now face a possible maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.
Anthony’s father, Victor Avalos, said during the news conference that he still has trouble coping with his son’s death.
“Nothing is going to bring him back,” Victor Avalos said.
Anthony’s aunt, Maria Barron, said Anthony lived happily with her and her husband, David Barron, for seven years until the county Department of Children and Family Services ordered him returned to his mother.
“I truly believe Anthony could have been saved if DCFS did its job properly,” Maria Barron said.
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.
From 2013 until his death in 2018, reports of abuse were made to the DCFS that Anthony and his six half-siblings were denied food and water, beaten, sexually abused, dangled upside-down from a staircase, forced to crouch for hours while holding heavy objects, locked in small spaces with no access to a bathroom, forced to fight each other and forced to eat from the trash, according to the plaintiffs’ court papers.
“Despite these continued allegations of abuse, and some being found substantiated, DCFS continued to leave the children in Barron’s and Leiva’s care, exposing Anthony and his half-siblings to continued torture and abuse,” the plaintiffs’ court papers alleged.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story was updated to add comments from the plaintiffs’ attorney and Anthony’s family.
Previous related stories:
Family of slain Lancaster boy settles part of lawsuit against LA County
Judge says she won’t delay start of trial over Lancaster boy’s death
DA drops bid for death sentence in 10-year-old Lancaster boy’s killing
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 "Proposed settlement of lawsuit over Lancaster boy’s death to cost LACo $32 million"
And their irresponsibility continues, they leave kids who need help and they take kids who are safe and should be left alone. I was reading an old article with behaviorist social worker Shauna Henderson McEntire…. it was an article in regards to these social workers striking. They quote Miss McIntyre to say we want these families to know we’re not there to tear their families apart, this is a woman who attempted to negotiate my property in juvenile dependency Court when I wouldn’t comply because I understood that was not legal, she came to my home to approve visits with my children in their home that they were removed from wrongfully for the sixth time. She always had a reason not a valid reason of course, the fifth visit was denied visitation in my children’s home because I had a butcher block with knives for the kitchen much like probably every household had on my entire block. They said it was not put up high enough my oldest son is 6 ft 3 oh, my second son is 5 ft 9, and their younger sister I’m not certain of her height however we are a family who cooks together and I explained that but I could move them very easily yet our visits were still denied. On the sixth time I allowed them to check my house one more time I decided that I would bring a support group so around four people took the day off and came be here with me. At the end of the visit Miss McIntyre came into my kitchen and the rest of the people were in the front room. I asked her are my visits approved, she responded” there is nothing wrong with your house Mia there’s something wrong with you” of course you could imagine how I felt but I stayed calm and I asked her if she expected to find another mother here today. She looked at me dumbfounded. And then I asked her why did you waste all these other people’s time you knew it was going to be me if you knew that it was me and not the house then why did you have all these people come today. I asked her if she felt responsible for anybody’s pay or putting them out having them drive all the way out here Etc didn’t bother her one bit. That is when she said” why don’t you just give him the house he wants the house”. To which I responded if you want him to have a house so bad why don’t you give him yours and then I asked her to leave. They put her on the stand on my day of court and she made up a story she said that I chased her down the block with my dog and had my dog attack her and that she was extremely afraid of me and could not help with me getting visits anymore as if she ever did. That never occurred I don’t have a vicious dog and I’m not in the business of chasing people and having my dog attack them. They make sure to give my ex-husband full custody who has a domestic violence order naming him the perpetrator and me the protected from the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office. That violates both federal and state law I believe the code is 304 and my ex-husband should not have gotten any custody except for 15% with my approval and then he would have to go through checks and balances. Me and my children to date have not seen or spoke to each other so we haven’t heard each other’s voices on March 14th it’s a year so I don’t count exact but we’re in May. Prior to that my children and I didn’t see each other for exactly a year on my birthday and prior to that I was given approximately 4 visits with in a nine month. And I was supposed to be seeing them several times a week. Parental alienation is severe psychological child abuse. My children were not suffering any type of severe abuse daily by me. I was there caretaker 100% since they were born. My 7-year-old went to the school and asked for help she said she was afraid her dad was going to kill her mom and then they turn around and send her with him and she’s never to see her mother or her bedroom or her dog or her cat or her favorite blanket or anything else in the same for my two sons. Any official calling themselves child protectors who get children murdered or killed you know he’s not the only boy that got killed that year if you look at the numbers I believe in LA county it’s 57 kids that year that died in DCFS custody and if you look at the statistics on sexual abuse and how many go in not sexually abused and how many come out sexually abused it’s astonishing that we have not abolished this part of the government. If they were private business we would protesting get him out why don’t we do that? If you keep the kids for 18 months they get a block grant ensuring job security and raises. There should not be incentives to keeping children longer unnecessarily for money and job security. There should not be money incentives for keeping or leaving any children. And the truth is they leave kids that are in Dire Straits which is a very small percentage of that population they’re working with. But those parents are scary and they can’t control those parents and so it’s no fun for them and in reality I believe they figure those kids are going to be screwed up no matter what so who gives a s*** either way they have way too much power not enough education not enough background checking and not enough training and my children were kidnapped by this monster who I believe was on this case as well. She was able to dodge it and leave it on other people because of her status in the office and her ability to kiss the ride ass I guess
To Clarify says
Long before the County had any obligation or authority to act, two adults failed to do their job right….
That is where all this started!
But no…. Let’s blame the County instead…
A fair point.
It’s dangerous to be a child in the Antelope Valley
Maybe la county should have done their job right.
And for those crying about taxpayers money dont worry its a never ending story with government assistance.
It doesn't matter says
If this is going to cost the tax payers millions someone at DCS should be fired
Between Rex’s big mouth and the DCS, the taxpayers are paying millions for incompetency.
LA County taxpayer dollars at work…