Mom, boyfriend get life sentences in 10-year-old boy’s death
Apr 25, 2023, 2:22 PM
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The mother of a 10-year-old boy and her boyfriend were each sentenced Tuesday to life in prison for torturing and murdering the child, who was beaten, brutalized and starved in Southern California.
Heather Barron, 33, and Kareem Leiva, 37, were convicted of first-degree murder involving torture last month in a nonjury trial. They also were found guilty of abusing two other children in their Lancaster home.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Sam Ohta sentenced them both to life without the possibility of parole, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release. The sentencing followed emotional statements from the boy’s relatives and friends, ABC7 reported.
The judge called Anthony Avalos a “helpless child” dependent on his mother for his basic needs. “Instead Anthony was tortured and killed,” Ohta said.
Neither Barron nor Leiva spoke during Tuesday’s hearing, according to the TV station.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies went to Anthony’s home in response to a 911 call from Barron on June 20, 2018. They were told that he had been injured in a fall.
Anthony died in a hospital the next day. Doctors said he was severely malnourished and dehydrated.
Prosecutors alleged that the boy was intentionally killed by torture. They said that for years he was routinely beaten and whipped with a belt along with the other children, repeatedly dropped on his head, smashed into the floor or furniture, burned with cigarettes and denied water and food at times or force-fed.
Prosecutors said Leiva sprayed hot sauce in the children’s faces; forced them to fight one another, with the loser being punished by him; and made the youngsters kneel for lengthy periods on concrete floors, nails or uncooked rice or squat until they fell over.
Barron’s defense attorney argued that she was herself abused by Leiva and couldn’t stop him from hurting the children.
Last year, Los Angeles County agreed to pay $32 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the boy’s father and three siblings over his death. A home counseling contractor also was sued and previously reached a $3 million deal with the boy’s family.
The lawsuit alleged that the county Department of Children and Family Services disregarded 13 reports of abuse allegations involving Anthony from relatives, teachers, counselors and even law enforcement.
The agency never tried to remove the boy from the home.
In the wake of the settlement, the department said it had taken “significant steps to mitigate the risk of harm to children” and was committed to continuing reform.