A Lancaster woman charged along with her boyfriend with the torture and murder of her 10-year-old son inflicted some of the same type of punishment on her children that had been used against her by her mother and stepfather years earlier, her brother and sister testified Thursday.
David Barron and Crystal Diuguid told Superior Court Judge Sam Ohta — who is hearing the non-jury trial of Heather Maxine Barron and Kareem Ernesto Leiva — that they warned their sister against inflicting the same kind of punishment they had faced as children. The pair testified that they subsequently repeatedly notified the county Department of Children and Family Services about the alleged abuse of Anthony Avalos and three of his half- siblings.
David Barron said he told DCFS during one of the calls that he believed one of the children would be dead in five years if they were left in the home. He said it wound up being only about three years before Anthony died.
Heather Barron, 33, and Leiva, 37, are charged with one count each of murder and torture involving Anthony’s June 2018 death, along with two counts of child abuse involving two of the boy’s half-siblings. The murder count 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 2018 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.
“Most of the time she would say the kids did it to each other or themselves,” David Barron testified on Thursday, Jan. 26, adding that he didn’t think children who were that young would be making up their accounts of the alleged abuse. David Barron said he saw Heather Barron hit three of her children, including Anthony, with her hand, a wire hanger and a wooden spoon, and another of her children with her hand alone. He testified that Heather Barron begged him not to call the Department of Children and Family Services and that she told him she would have Leiva leave the home.
Anthony’s aunt, Crystal Diuguid, said she also provided information to a mandated reporter who notified DCFS that there were “four victims” of abuse by Heather Barron and that the one receiving the “worst treatment” was Anthony, who was 5 years old at the time. Diuguid told the judge that she and her sister were forced as young children to kneel on uncooked rice — something the prosecution contends that Anthony was also forced to do.
“She told me that she did a lot of punishments to her children that we had to do as children,” Diuguid said. “It did get worse after Kareem entered the picture.”
Anthony’s aunt and uncle testified that Heather Barron subsequently didn’t allow them to see the children after they reported the alleged abuse, and that she never saw Leiva abusing any of the children. Anthony’s cousin, identified in court only as Luz B., grew emotional when shown a photo of Anthony, whom she described as “more like a brother to me.” She testified that she remembered asking him once about a bruise and that he told her that his mom and Leiva hit him a lot.
“I never once thought Anthony was lying,” Luz B. said.
Anthony’s father, Victor Avalos, testified that he split from Heather Barron when Anthony was about six or seven months old and that he only saw him on video chats after moving to Mexico to find a job. “She said she never needed me. She could do it herself,” he said of Heather Barron, whom he said rebuffed his attempts to see his child.
When asked by the prosecutor whether he loved Anthony, the boy’s father responded, “Yes, very much. I still do … I still can’t believe what I’m going through.”
Michael Gelardo — who was a patrol deputy at the Los Angeles County sheriff’s station in Lancaster at the time and is now a detective — testified that three of Heather Barron’s children, including Anthony, reported in September 2015 that Leiva had been abusive to them and that they had been locked in a room. Gelardo said he was called to Heather Barron’s home after she complained that her brother wouldn’t return her children to her when she got off work, but said he decided after speaking to the children that they should temporarily remain at David Barron’s home. Gelardo subsequently called a DCFS hotline to report what the children had told him, but said he was never contacted by a sheriff’s detective to follow up on the allegations.
Testimony is set to resume Monday, Jan. 20, with three of the boy’s half siblings expected to be called to the stand later next week.
In his opening statement, Deputy District Attorney Saeed Teymouri told the judge that Heather Barron and her boyfriend tortured and abused Anthony for two weeks before his death.
“Anthony Avalos graduated the fourth 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,” Teymouri said.
Teymouri told the judge that there had been multiple contacts with the county’s Department of Children and Family Services dating back to 2014. The prosecutor said Anthony was “already brain dead” and had been lying on the floor in the family’s townhouse “for at least a day, possibly more” when Heather Barron called 911 to seek assistance, 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 prosecutor said, showing a photo of Anthony 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.”
Heather Barron told investigators that Anthony might be gay and that she responded that she would love him no matter what because he was her “baby.”
Heather Barron and Kareem Leiva were charged in June 2018 with Anthony’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, Pasadena-based 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:
Trial begins for two charged with Lancaster boy’s murder, torture
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
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6 comments for "Siblings of Lancaster woman testify she abused her children"
I pray a trust is set up , for the 7 remaining siblings. And yes, had they cared that much , why the hell wasn’t more done when he was alive, to keep this from happening in the first place !!!!! I get DFCS failed this little boy too , but someone should of taken this boy away from those 2 MONSTERS !!!!!!!!
HIS INNOCENT BLOOD IS ON THE HANDS OF THE LOS ANGELES COUNTY SUPERVISORS…
WHO HAVE CHANGED NOTHING WITH THEIR CORRUPT AND WORTHLESS DCFS…
SHAMEFUL AND EVIL..!
East Palmdale's Most Nonsensical says
The incompetent social workers come after innocent dads properly disciplining their kids while lunatics torture and murder their children under DCFSs’ noses. DCFS is a totally corrupt and useless organization eating up millions of county tax dollars.
PITTY MOM says
I am not understanding why the rest of the family should profit from his death? If anything, money should be put in a trust for the siblings and only so much allowed each month for them. I hate the fact that family members who did not live there profit from death. System is so broken.
I know that you are free from pain now sweet boy.
Tim Scott says
The court generally doesn’t just hand over the money to ‘the family’ and move on to the next case. When the suit is filed the plaintiffs are listed and whatever is rewarded will be split amongst them. For the minor children among the plaintiffs that does mean some sort of trust would have to be set up and it would have to be acceptable to the judge.
One huge problem with that is that in a lot of cases a family will have a serious hard time identifying trustees for any such trust. No matter who you pick, it seems like there is always at least one person in the family that will say they can’t be trusted.
Yes, my fiancee & I both agree. Imo if the family members cared that much, they would-& SHOULD-have done so, so much MORE. That money should go to the siblings of the little boy. They suffered right along with him.