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Crime News Family Crimes

California Mother And Boyfriend Convicted Of 2018 Murder And Torture Of Her 10-Year-Old Son

Heather Barron and her boyfriend, Kareem Leiva, have been convicted of first-degree murder and torture in the 2018 death of Barron's son, 10-year-old Anthony Avalos.

By Kate Zincone
Killer Motive: What Drives People To Kill?

A California mother and her boyfriend were each found guilty on Tuesday of first-degree murder and torture for the 2018 death of her son, Anthony Avalos.

Heather Barron, 33, and Kareem Leiva, 37, were convicted of torturing and killing 10-year-old Avalos, and are facing life sentences without parole, according to the Associated PressThe pair were also convicted of child abuse of two other kids in their home in northern Los Angeles County's Lancaster.

Prosecutors alleged that a pattern of abuse occurred for years before Avalos' death, noting the boy was severely malnourished and dehydrated when he was taken to the hospital the day before he died.

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Avalos and his two half-siblings were often whipped, dropped, burned with cigarettes, rammed into furniture, denied food and water and, at times, force-fed by Barron and Leiva.

County District Attorney George Gascón stated that Barron and Leiva “tortured the boy every day for two weeks leading up to his death,” the AP noted. “The brutality that was meted out on this young child was unimaginable.”

Anthony Avalos Fb

Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies responded to a 911 call from Barron on June 20, 2018, stating that Avalos had been injured in a fall. They found Avalos unresponsive in his Lancaster home, according to a press release from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

The defendants blamed Avalos for his own injuries, stating that he starved himself and intentionally threw himself to the ground.

The prosecution argued that “both of these defendants are evil individuals” who had a history of abuse before meeting one another, according to NBC Los Angeles.

Leiva confessed to the violence after his arrest, noting “everything is just my fault.” Barron’s defense attorney said that she had also been abused by Leiva.

“It wasn’t just Leiva doing the abuse,” Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami argued. “Heather Barron participated in the torture ... Heather Barron participated in the abuse,” NBC L.A. reported.

In 2022, L.A. County counselor Barbara Dixon was placed on probation for neglecting to report the suspected abuse of Avalos and Gabriel Fernandez, a 9-year-old boy who died in 2013 after suffering abuse at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend.

The torture practices that Avalos endured closely resembled those inflicted on Fernandez by his mother, Pearl Fernandez, and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, according to previous Oxygen.com reporting.

Several complaints of child abuse were made in both cases before the deaths of Avalos and Fernandez, encouraging criticism of the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services. Thirteen reports of abuse allegations were filed by Avalos’ relatives, teachers, counselors and law enforcement, the AP specified.

Avalos’ half-siblings also testified about the abuse, elaborating on the many punishments they received from Barron and Leiva. The pair are due to be sentenced on April 25, when they face up to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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