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Mother of Anthony Avalos and her boyfriend found guilty in boy's murder

Anthony Avalos, seen in this undated photo, died June 21, 2018. His mother and her boyfriend have been charged with murder in his death. (Family photo)

A Lancaster woman and her boyfriend were convicted on Tuesday, March 7th, 2023, of torturing and murdering the woman's 10-year-old son, Anthony Avalos, who died in 2018.

Wrapping up a non-jury trial, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Sam Ohta found Heather Maxine Barron, 33, and Kareem Ernesto Leiva, 37, guilty of one count each of murder and torture for the boy's June 21, 2018, death in his Lancaster home. 

Barron and Leiva face life in prison without parole.   

A grand jury indictment also charged Barron and Leiva with two counts of child abuse involving two other children in the Lancaster home, with Leiva facing an allegation that he personally inflicted great bodily injury on one of the youngsters in circumstances involving domestic violence.

Barron and Leiva tortured Anthony Avalos during the last five days of his life, according to prosecutors. Avalos was whipped with a belt and a looped cord; he was allegedly dropped on his head repeatedly; and hot sauce was allegedly poured on his face and mouth, according to prosecutors.

Avalos's mother Heather Barron called 911 at about 12:15 p.m. on June 20, 2018, to report her son was unresponsive. Avalos died in the hospital the next day. Investigators deemed the boy's death suspicious.

Members of Avalos's family, including his father, filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles County alleging failure on the part of multiple social workers, who had previously visited the Lancaster home. The county settled with attorneys for the family for $32 million in May 2022.

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.

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón issued a statement following the verdict, which said the following: 

"The brutality that was meted out on this young child was unimaginable. No child should endure this kind of violence and torture at the hands of the people who are supposed to love and protect him from harm. The actions taken by the defendants were truly revolting and I am thankful that they will be held accountable. I am also thankful to the trial team who prosecuted this difficult and traumatic case."

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