The new special circumstance allegations against Heather Barron and her boyfriend Kareem Leiva states the murder of Anthony Avalos was intentional and involved the infliction of torture.
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Family members of 10 year old Lancaster boy Anthony Avalos speak out after a prosecutor stiffens the charges against the boy’s mother and boyfriend who’s accused of murdering the child. The case could now be eligible for the death penalty. pic.twitter.com/xeCQzgmM3z— Leo Stallworth (@abc7leo) October 3, 2018
The two were charged in June with one count of murder and torture. On Wednesday, they were also additionally charged with one count of child abuse for allegedly beating Anthony's younger brother.
Barron and Leiva appeared in court Wednesday and pleaded not guilty to the amended charges. The two are slated to return to court on Nov. 27 for a preliminary hearing, and were being held without bail in the interim.
"They might get the death penalty, but that's not going to bring Anthony back," said the boy's aunt, Maria Barron, outside the hearing Wednesday. "It's never going to give me closure. There's always going to be this emptiness in my heart."
MORE: Lancaster boy allegedly tortured, abused for at least 5 days before death
On June 20, Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies responded to a home in the 1100 block of East Avenue K, where Anthony was found unresponsive. The boy was transported to a hospital, where he died the next day.
Barron and Leiva are accused of torturing Anthony in the days leading up to his death. In addition, authorities said Anthony's sexuality may have been a motivating factor in his death.
If convicted as charged, the two face a possible maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole or death. A decision will be made at a later date on whether to seek the death penalty, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said in a press release.