A prosecutor told a judge on Wednesday, Jan. 25, that a Lancaster woman and her boyfriend tortured and abused her 10-year-old son for two weeks before his death, while an attorney for the male defendant countered that his client should be acquitted of murder.
Superior Court Judge Sam Ohta was chosen to hear the case after both sides waived their right to a jury trial for Heather Maxine Barron, 33, and Kareem Ernesto Leiva, 37, who are charged in Anthony Avalos‘ June 2018 death.
The two are charged with one count each of murder and torture involving Anthony’s death, along with two counts of child abuse involving two of the boy’s half-siblings. The murder charge includes the special circumstance allegation of murder involving the infliction of torture. Over the objection of Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office dropped its bid for the death penalty against the two after the election of District Attorney George Gascón, who issued a directive that “a sentence of death is never an appropriate resolution in any case.” The two could now face a maximum of life in prison without the possibility of parole if they are convicted as charged.
“Anthony Avalos graduated the 4th grade on June 7th, 2018, and for two consecutive weeks he was abused and tortured every single day culminating to when the first responders found his lifeless body on June 20th,” Deputy District Attorney Saeed Teymouri said in his opening statement. The boy died early the next morning.
The deputy district attorney told the judge that there had been multiple contacts with the county’s Department of Children and Family Services dating back to 2014.
“She’s been torturing her kids for a long period of time, and once defendant Leiva came into the picture it turned deadly,” Teymouri said. The prosecutor said the boy was “already brain dead” and had been lying on the floor in the family’s townhouse “for at least a day, possibly more” when Barron called 911 to seek assistance for the boy, and that the two “concocted a story that Anthony Avalos had injured himself.”
The boy had “new and old injuries — literally from head to toe,” the deputy district attorney said, showing a photo of the boy while he was alive and then in a video from the hospital in which some of his injuries were depicted.
The prosecutor played an audio recording of an interview with Barron, in which she told investigators, “I promise I did not hurt my son. I did not let nobody hurt my son … I swear he was just acting up and he threw himself because he didn’t want to eat.” She told investigators that the boy said he might be gay and that she responded that she would love him no matter what because he was her “baby.”
Leiva subsequently acknowledged that he had the boy kneel on uncooked rice and admitted that he had rendered him unconscious for about five minutes just days earlier, according to the prosecutor.
One of Leiva’s attorneys, Dan Chambers, countered that the evidence would demonstrate that there is “reasonable doubt” involving the murder charge against his client. He said the two major issues will be “a lack of intent to kill” and the issue of “causation.” The defense lawyer questioned the accounts of the boy’s half-siblings, whose testimony he said has changed over time and is “inconsistent with the medical evidence.”
“This case is a case of severe abuse, but as to Mr. Leiva, it is not a murder,” the defense lawyer told the judge.
Barron’s attorneys reserved their right to make an opening statement when the defense begins its portion of the case.
Barron’s sister-in-law, Maria Barron, testified that Anthony came to live with her and her husband on two occasions — first in 2014 and again in 2015 — and that she had offered to keep him and three of his half-siblings. “She told me no. She needed her benefits,” Maria said, adding later that Heather Barron didn’t allow her or her husband to see the children again after they reported that the children said they were being abused.
Barron and Leiva were charged in June 2018 with the boy’s killing and were subsequently indicted by a Los Angeles County grand jury in October 2018. They remain jailed without bail.
Last October, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors formally approved a $32 million settlement of a lawsuit filed by the boy’s relatives, who alleged that multiple social workers failed to properly respond to reports of abuse of Anthony and his siblings. The other remaining defendant in the lawsuit, Hathaway- Sycamores Child and Family Services, settled its portion of the case for an undisclosed amount.
The lawsuit cited other high-profile deaths of children who were also being monitored by the DCFS — 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez and 4-year-old Noah Cuatro, both of Palmdale — to allege “systemic failures” in the agency.
Previous related stories:
LA County Supervisor approve $32 million settlement over Lancaster boy’s death
Proposed settlement of lawsuit over Lancaster boy’s death to cost LACo $32 million
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
6 comments for "Trial begins for two charged with Lancaster boy’s murder, torture"
Dan the man says
As we can see, with the nature of our legal system no one seeks the of what really happened. In stead it is like a football game, the defenders vs prosecutors each sides using a strategy to obtain a victory but neither seeking the truth. It is a lie when Americans brag and say “we have the best legal system.” As a German I laugh at such a ridiculous claim. My question is, why do you have so much crime if you have the best legal system.
Tim Scott says
There is no “finding out what really happened.” At the least, there is no such thing that the law can use. There will always be points of view and interpretations and probabilities. A good legal system has processes for weighing all that out in an unbiased process and judging accordingly.
Does Germany have a good legal system as compared to the US? Depends on how much you trust judges.
Niccolo M says
Thank you for your much needed opinion Tim.
yes I’m being sarcastic
bottom line is it’s dangerous to be a child in the Antelope Valley
US common-law evolved from Britain that spread to North America during the 17th- and 18th-century. There is your problem right there.
Frank Rizzo says
From the country that brought us Adolph Hitler. Please tell me why you are even here Dan? Euro trash please go home. We aren’t perfect, but USA is the best deal for anyone, that’s why everyone wants to come here and be us.
Reply to Frank Rizzo says
Ignorant, uncultured, and uneducated Antelope Valley garbage, Hitler was Austrian. He was born in Braunau am Inn. As far as the US is concerned, it is dying a slow and miserable death.