Article contains mentions of child abuse and descriptions that some may friend upsetting. Reader discretion is advised.
On June 20th, 2018, at 12:15PM the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department received a phone call regarding an unresponsive child due to what they were told was the result of a fall. The child’s mother, Heather Maxine Barron, 29, placed the call from the family residence, an apartment in Lancaster on 1100 East Avenue K.
When police arrived at the scene they found Ten-year-old Anthony Avalos unconscious and in critical condition. He was immediately rushed to a local hospital. Tragically, the child died as a result of his injuries the following morning.
Suspicious that little Anthony’s death was not due to the injuries sustained by an alleged fall, an investigation was launched.
An interview with the boy’s auntie, Maria Barron, revealed that she had long been reporting suspected abuse in the household to the Department of Children and Family Services since 2015. Maria said she had noticed the children were sprayed with bruises and suspected that Heather Barron’s live in boyfriend, Kareem Ernesto Leiva, 32, was responsible. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department confirmed that allegations of child abuse had indeed been filed in 2015, however the case was dropped and filed away after the kids retracted and changed the details of their original stories. It is now believed the children were likely threatened into doing so at the hands of their abusers.
Despite her efforts to involve the local authorities, Maria’s attempts to remove the children from the abusive situation failed. She was not the only family member who was aware of 10 year old Anthony’s suffering, his grandmother, Concepcion Ramirez, revealed in an interview that she too was aware the child was being abused at home. When he would stay with her he would tell her that he didn’t want to return to the apartment and asked if he could stay with her instead. Apparently he confided in her that he was being abused, which included being locked in closets and burned with cigarettes. She is quoted in an online article on the NBC Los Angeles website as saying: "It had been happening for a long time. When he came to visit me, he use to tell me things. He said they abused him physically."
People outside of the family, including teachers, contacted child protective services to no avail. The LA times reported that a total of 16 calls had been made to the DCFS but nothing ever came of it. The accusations included starvation, denial of water and basic human necessities, physical abuse, being locked in small places for extended periods of time and denied access to the bathroom, being forced into physically fight with the other children, being held up by the ankles and dropped on his head repeatedly- the list goes on. There was also a report of sexual abuse against another family member who often babysat the children. Heather Barron was allegedly made aware of the situation but allowed the family member to continue babysitting Anthony and her other children. The abuse allegations are said to involve all of Barron’s children, but according to various reports in the media, it was Anthony who was singled out and regularly tortured.
Despite the severity of the accusations and the concern of extended family members, teachers and other outsiders, help never came and Anthony died at the hands of his abusive mother and her boyfriend. Despite his pleas for help, the 10 year old was failed by the systems in place that should have protected him.
Anthony’s dad, Victor Avalos, who lives in Mexico, said he tried for years to get custody of his son, he begged Heather Barron to release the child into his care but she refused. Avalos gave a heartbreaking account of the conversations he would have with his son over Skype and told the LA times that Anthony wanted to live with him and after contacting child services he was confident that they would contact him, but they never did.
Unable to receive help or assistance from his extended family or local child protective services, it can only be assumed that Anthony Avalos suffered relentlessly at the hands of his own mother and her boyfriend until eventually dying from severe abuse related injuries.
Days before his death Anthony had apparently came out as gay. “I like boys” he said. It has not been confirmed who he came out to. Many speculate whether or not his murder was motivated by homophobia. A detective on the case said that he didn’t believe this was the motivation for the crime, but those following the case admit they can’t help but feel it is too much of a coincidence that Anthony died soon after.
At a court hearing early in October details of the campaign of torture and child abuse were read aloud in the courtroom. The couple were charged with one count of torture and one count of murder in June. It was revealed, unsurprisingly, that Leiva had previous charges against him for domestic abuse, filed in 2010.
The court heard last month how Heather Maxine Barron and Kareem Ernesto Leiva would take turns alternately both starving and force feeding Anthony. They would beat him and slam his little body into walls and furniture. Not only would they physically hurt the 10 year old, but they would have his siblings join in on the physical abuse against their own brother. His mother and her boyfriend would pick him up by the legs and dangle him in mid-air, before allowing him to fall onto his head- they did this over and over again. The beatings would include makeshift whips fashioned from electrical cords and belts, they also smothered the child’s face with hot sauce and poured it in his mouth and forced him to kneel on grains on uncooked rice for long periods of time.
On the night of his death he had been curled up on the floor and was completely unresponsive. Investigators reported visual signs of malnourishment, head injuries and abrasions to his entire body.
The couple are facing maximum sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole. It is possible they may be looking at the death penalty.
Childhelp.org (1-800) 4-A-Child or (1-800) 422-4453
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