Anthony Avalos: 4 years after Lancaster boy's death, murder and torture trial set to begin

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Wednesday, January 25, 2023
Anthony Avalos: 4 years after Lancaster boy's death, trial will begin
The boy's mother, Heather Barron, and her boyfriend, Kareem Leiva, face murder, torture and child abuse charges.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- On Wednesday, a trial begins in Los Angeles that seeks to hold two people responsible for Anthony Avalos's short life and slow death.

He was 10 years old when he died in June 2018 from a head injury, with several others on his body. His mother, Heather Barron, and her boyfriend, Kareem Leiva, face murder, torture and child abuse charges.

The L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services started receiving hotline calls alleging the pair abused the little boy and his siblings years prior.

School employees, social workers, and family members each reported Barron and Leiva hit the children, forced them to hit each other, locked them in their rooms for hours, denied them food and bathroom breaks, among other things.

DCFS claimed many of the calls were not substantiated.

The DCFS lapses were eventually exposed, and led to a multi-million dollar settlement, and reforms.

READ MORE: LA County approves $32M settlement over death of Anthony Avalos

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors formally approved a $32 million settlement between the county and family of Anthony Avalos, a 10-year-old Lancaster boy who died in 2018.

Among those who called the hotline and is scheduled to testify is Barron's brother, David. He and his wife Maria have been fierce advocates in the quest to get justice for Anthony.

"Let me tell you, he gave the most amazing hugs ever," said Maria Barron. "He was always ready to let you know how much he loves you."

David remembers taking Anthony fishing one day, to celebrate an award he got at school.

"At the time, there was no fish in the lake, so I went to the store and I bought fish, put it on a hook and threw it out there and they all took turns thinking they caught fish," said David. "That was one of my last memories of Anthony."

They plan to attend every day of the five week-long trial.

"We're almost there," said Maria Barron. "You know, we're just waiting for this to be done with. I know it's going to be hard because just thinking of everything he went through, it just breaks my heart. What was going through his head? No one was there to help him."

If convicted, Heather Barron and Leiva face a maximum possible sentence of life in prison without parole.

Prosecutors originally sought the death penalty, but the District Attorney's Office reversed course in May 2021.