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$32M settlement reached with LA County in Anthony Avalos child abuse case

$32M settlement reached with LA County in Anthony Avalos child abuse case
$32M settlement reached with LA County in Anthony Avalos child abuse case 00:53

Los Angeles County has reportedly reached a tentative $32 million settlement with the family of a 10-year-old Lancaster boy who died in 2018 after being abused for years.

Attorneys for the family of Anthony Avalos announced the settlement Wednesday to the lawsuit which accuses L.A. County and multiple social workers of failing to properly respond to reports of abuses of Anthony and his half-siblings.

"L.A. County has tentatively agreed to pay $32 million...because of this death, because this young boy should have never died," Avalos family attorney Brian Claypool said.

Avalos died on June 21, 2018, after being rushed to a hospital injured and not breathing. Investigators later determined that he had been tortured, abused and beaten over a period of several years by his mother, 32-year-old Heather Barron, and her boyfriend, 36-year-old Kareem Leiva.  

A grand jury indicted Barron and Leiva in October 2018 on charges that they murdered the boy and abused two other children in the household. The L.A. County District Attorney's Office in May 2021 reversed course and announced it would no longer seek the death penalty against the pair, who now face a possible maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted. 

The settlement of the county's portion of the lawsuit over the death of Avalos was initially announced in court last week, but no terms were disclosed. It is still pending approval from the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.

The settlement leaves Pasadena-based Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services as the only remaining defendant in the lawsuit. That part of the case is set for trial Sept. 6.

The suit alleges Hathaway-Sycamores assigned employee Barbara Dixon to work with the family even though she had allegedly not reported abuse in the case of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez of Palmdale, who, like Anthony, was killed in 2013 while in the care of his mother and her boyfriend.

According to Claypool, Dixon was an unlicensed intern.

Prosecutors allege that Avalos was severely tortured during the last five or six days of his life by his mother and Leiva. The alleged abuse included whipping the boy with a belt and a looped cord, pouring hot sauce on his face and mouth, holding him by his feet and dropping him on his head repeatedly, according to a prosecution court filing.

From 2013 until his death in 2018, reports of abuse were made to the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services that Anthony and his six half-siblings were denied food and water, beaten, sexually abused, dangled upside-down from a staircase, forced to crouch for hours while holding heavy objects, locked in small spaces with no access to a bathroom, forced to fight each other and forced to eat from the trash, according to the plaintiffs' court papers.

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