Prosecutors announced they plan to seek the death penalty for a California mom and her boyfriend accused of torturing her 10-year-old son for days before the young boy died from his injuries.
The decision to seek the death penalty for Heather Barron 29, and Kareem Leiva, 33, was announced in court Wednesday by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, more than a year after prosecutors say Anthony Avalos was tortured to death.
Avalos’ family commended the district attorney’s office decision at a news conference after the court proceedings.
“Today’s especially hard for our family, being here, but we’re thankful that the DA and his team are working really hard for us,” the boy’s aunt, Maria Barron, said, according to KABC. “We appreciate everything that they’re doing in seeking justice for our little boy.”
David Barron, the young boy’s uncle, also said the decision to seek death for Barron and Leiva was one step closer to achieving justice for Avalos.
“I know the death penalty will not bring Anthony back, but this is one of the worst kind of crimes you could commit so it deserves the worst kind of punishment,” he said, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Avalos died June 21, 2018 after prosecutors said he endured a horrific string of abuse for five or six days, including having hot sauce poured all over his face and mouth, being whipped with a belt and looped cord, and being held by his feet and dropped repeatedly on his head. Barron and Leiva have also been accused of starving the boy and throwing him into furniture.
Barron called 911 on June 20, 2018 to report that the young boy had fallen, KTLA reports. Investigators, however, suspected his injuries were likely the result of physical abuse. Avalos died the next morning in a local hospital, with injuries from his head to his toes, including a traumatic brain injury, bruises, cuts, scabs and abrasions, prosecutors said.
The couple is also accused of watching pornographic videos and performing sex acts in front of Avalos and another child who was in the home, according to a filing Wednesday. They've also been charged with abusing two other children in their care between April 2014 and June 2018.
Avalos' family filed a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services earlier this month that accuses the agency and multiple social workers of failing to protect Avalos after numerous reports of possible abuse had been filed.
According to the lawsuit, at least 16 reports had been filed over five years to DCFS about possible physical and sexual abuse the 10-year-old suffered.
Maria Barron believes that if the department had “done their job” the young boy might still be alive.
“We would be at school right now, he would probably be trying out for band, starting sixth grade with his cousin,” she said, according to The Times.
Barron and Leiva were indicted by a grand jury on capital murder charges in October. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Levia has also been accused of other violent acts while in prison, including assaulting another prisoner.
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