The mother of a 10-year-old boy who was beaten to death, and whose alleged abuse may be linked to his coming out as gay, has been charged with her son’s brutal murder, prosecutors say.
Heather Barron, mother of Anthony Avalos, and her boyfriend, Kareem Leiva, have been charged with one count each of murder and torture, for allegedly beating and torturing the boy to death, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office said in a statement Friday. Prosecutors also charged Barron with one count of child abuse, and Leiva with one count of assault of a child causing death, according to the DA’s office.
Avalos died June 21 after he was found a day earlier in his home in Lancaster, near Los Angeles, suffering from life-threatening injuries and showing signs of being severely beaten, prosecutors said.
A spokesman for L.A.'s Department of Children and Family Services told the Los Angeles Times that the agency was investigating whether Avalos had been abused for coming out as gay.
Leiva, 32, whom Avalos’s uncle accused of having a history of homophobia, according to NBC News, was arrested earlier last week, while Barron was charged Friday.
Leiva and Barron were expected to be arraigned on Monday. If convicted, Barron faces a maximum of 22 years to life in prison, while Leiva faces up to 32 years to life in prison, prosecutors said.
The little boy’s death has sparked renewed calls for a review into how California handles and investigates child abuse cases, particularly because Avalos had never been permanently removed from his home, despite the fact that investigators had received numerous calls about the alleged abuse of Avalos and his siblings, according to the L.A. Times.
Police and child-safety officials had received at least 16 calls about the family, with tipsters alleging that the siblings had been deprived of food and water, sexually abused, forced to fight each other, and locked in small spaces without access to the bathroom, among other allegations, according to the Times.