Mother, boyfriend charged with murder and torture in death of her son

Posted at 5:32 PM, Jun 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-29 19:46:23-04

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles County prosecutors have charged a mother and her boyfriend with murder and torture in the death of the woman’s 10-year-old son.

The district attorney’s office says Heather Maxine Barron and Kareem Ernesto Leiva were each charged Friday with one count of murder and torture. Barron faces an additional count of child abuse, and Leiva faces an additional count of assault on a child causing death.

Leiva was taken into custody Wednesday, Barron was arrested on Friday.

Little Anthony Avalos died last week after being found unresponsive June 20 at home in Lancaster, in the high desert Antelope Valley north of Los Angeles.

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Authorities said the mother called 911 to report her son had fallen down stairs. He died the next day.

Barron and Leiva are accused of torturing the boy in the days leading up to his June 21 death, according to prosecutors.

In a press conference on Friday, the boy's family demanded answers about how social workers handled the case.

"We've been told there were 16 reports of suspected child abuse,'' Attorney Brian Claypool said. "One of the reasons we're here today is we want to find out: Did LA County DCFS go to the home on all those 16 occasions? Did they visit the home, or simply make a phone call? Then, what kind of follow-up happened?''

"You had teachers, you had family members, you had law enforcement come in contact. And yet, Anthony's at the morgue; we're awaiting autopsy results,'' Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said Wednesday. "One has to wonder what it's going to take to get the attention of not only the social workers, but the public in general, because I'm told that neighbors also were aware of what was taking place.''

Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services Director Bobby Cagle released the following statement, according to KTVU:

"As all agencies work tirelessly to get to the bottom of what happened, each day brings to light new updates and information about Anthony's senseless death. While we cannot comment on an ongoing criminal investigation, we are committed to cooperating with our law enforcement partners. I reiterate my deep commitment to seeing justice done on behalf of this innocent child. Our hearts go out to those that have been so deeply affected by this tragedy.''

If convicted Barron could face up to 22 years to life in state prison and Leiva could face a maximum of 32 years to life in prison.