Man suspected of killing 10-year-old Lancaster boy booked into jail on $2M bail

LANCASTER, Calif. (KABC) -- A man suspected of killing a 10-year-old Lancaster boy was booked into jail in lieu of $2 million bail Thursday.

Kareem Leiva, 32, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of murdering Anthony Avalos, a child who was found unresponsive at his home last week. Leiva was the boyfriend of Anthony's mother.

Anthony died a day after he was found unresponsive, and authorities deemed his death suspicious.

Authorities said Leiva was arrested after detectives interrogated him and believed he was responsible for Anthony's death. After he was arrested, authorities said Leiva was hospitalized for a previous injury - a cut to his chest that they believe was self-inflicted.

Anthony's mother, Heather Barron, was not arrested in connection to her son's death.

Since then, eight children were removed from the home and placed in the custody of Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.

Since 2013, DCFS reported receiving at least a dozen referrals for possible physical, emotional and sexual abuse of the boy. No such reports had been made in the last two years. Authorities are reviewing the agency's response to those reports.

Authorities said Anthony's sexuality may have been a motivating factor in his death.

Bobby Cagle, director at the Department of Child and Family Services told Eyewitness News that the department is investigating whether homophobia played a role in the boy's death.

"One of the things that we have heard is that there may have been a motivation on the part of the man in the household regarding to the sexuality of the child, and so we're looking into that in a very deep way," Cagle said.
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