Lancaster mother and her boyfriend indicted in murder of 10-year-old son, abuse of 2 other children

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Thursday, November 1, 2018
Lancaster mother, her boyfriend indicted in murder of young son
A Lancaster mother and her boyfriend have been indicted in a case stemming from the torture and killing of the woman's 10-year-old son.

LANCASTER, Calif. (KABC) -- A Lancaster mother and her boyfriend have been indicted in a case stemming from the torture and killing of the woman's 10-year-old son, Anthony Avalos, and the abuse of two other children.

The grand jury indictment was unsealed Wednesday morning in court, where Heather M. Barron and her boyfriend Kareem E. Leiva each pleaded not guilty to the capital murder and torture of Anthony, abuse of a child named Rafael, and abuse of a child named Destiny.

Anthony died last June after suffering five or six days of sustained abuse, authorities said. The alleged abuse included whipping the boy with a belt and a looped cord, pouring hot sauce on his face and mouth, holding him by his feet and dropping him on his head repeatedly.

MORE: Allegations make Anthony Avalos' mother and her boyfriend eligible for death penalty

A mother and her boyfriend pleaded not guilty in the death of 10-year-old Lancaster boy Anthony Avalos. The two are eligible for the death penalty.

According to prosecutors, Anthony's sexuality may have been a motivating factor in his death.

Barron and Leiva are scheduled to appear at a pretrial hearing Dec. 3. On that day, prosecutors are expected to announce whether they will seek the death penalty for the defendants.

The couple were initially charged July 2 with Anthony's death and had been awaiting a hearing to determine if there was sufficient evidence to require them to stand trial. The indictment allows the case to move more quickly to trial.

"Today is his favorite day, Halloween," said Avalos's aunt, Maria Barron, through tears. "He should be celebrating at school."

The grieving family's attorney, Brian Claypool, lauded the grand jury's decision. "To get a grand jury indictment is powerful in this case."

Claypool went on to call for "holding the L.A. County DCFS responsible for the murder and the torture of Anthony and these other kids as well," making reference to the death of 8-year-old Palmdale boy Gabriel Fernandez after prolonged, horrific abuse at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend.

Pearl Fernandez and her boyfriend Isauro Aguirre were sentenced in Gabriel's death in June. Fernandez got life in prison while Aguirre was given the death penalty.

Avalos's family, meanwhile, is still waiting for justice. "Anthony was so amazing and I know he's looking down on us now and smiling because he knows that justice is coming," said Barron.