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Anthony Avalos' mother and her boyfriend charged with murder of 10-year-old boy

Anthony Avalos' mother and her boyfriend charged with murder of 10-year-old boy
Heather Barron, mother of Anthony Avalos, appears in a Lancaster courtroom Friday. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

The mother of Anthony Avalos was arrested Friday and charged in the murder of the 10-year-old boy, who authorities believe was the victim of child abuse.

Heather Barron, 28, was arrested Friday morning and charged with murder, child abuse resulting in death, and torture, said Nicole Nishida, a spokeswoman with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

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Barron’s boyfriend, Kareem Leiva, 32, was also arrested earlier this week. He was charged Friday with murder, torture and assault on a child causing death, the district attorney’s office said in a statement.

Barron appeared in a Lancaster courtroom Friday, but her arraignment was postponed to Monday. Leiva, who is being treated for a laceration to his neck, will be arraigned after he is medically cleared. If convicted as charged, Barron faces a possible maximum sentence of 22 years to life in prison, and Leiva faces 32 years to life.

Anthony was found with severe injuries at his family’s apartment in Lancaster on June 20 and died the following day. Investigators classified the death as suspicious, and county officials removed other children from the home as the investigation continued.

Anthony Avalos, 10, was found with severe injuries at his family's apartment in Lancaster last week. He died June 21.
Anthony Avalos, 10, was found with severe injuries at his family's apartment in Lancaster last week. He died June 21. (Family photo)

Barron and Leiva are accused of torturing the boy in the days leading up to his death, the district attorney’s office said.

Department of Children and Family Services Director Bobby Cagle said in statements this week that Anthony showed signs of having been severely beaten, as well as malnourishment.

The department confirmed reports that Anthony had been the subject of a dozen calls to child welfare officials beginning in 2013, when Anthony was 4 years old. Cagle said the department received its last call about Anthony in 2016.

The Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that callers, who included family members, school administrators, a teacher and a counselor, said that Anthony and his six siblings had been denied food and water, beaten, sexually abused, dangled upside-down from a staircase, forced to crouch for hours, locked in small spaces with no access to the bathroom, and forced to eat from the trash.

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday called for a comprehensive review of Anthony’s case history and shortcomings in the child welfare and law enforcement systems that may have contributed to his death.

Relatives of Anthony Avalos walk out of court after Heather Barron appeared in Lancaster.
Relatives of Anthony Avalos walk out of court after Heather Barron appeared in Lancaster. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

6:25 p.m.: This article was updated with details about Barron’s and Leiva’s arraignments.

2:30 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details about the charges against Heather Barron and Kareem Leiva and the sentences they face.

This article was originally published at 1 p.m.

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