LOS ANGELES — The director of the Los Angeles County Department of Child and Family Services says the agency was aware of alleged abuse at the home of a 10-year-old boy prior to his suspicious death last week. The L.A. Times reported Sunday that social workers and police were told Anthony Avalos had been abused for years before dying Thursday from head trauma, with cigarette burns all over his body. The boy's mother told authorities he had fallen and hit his head.
Law enforcement is investigating the death as suspicious. No charges have been filed.
Department of Child and Family Services Director Bobby Cagle confirmed to CBS Los Angeles that the agency received 13 calls to the boy's home from February of 2013 to April of 2016, though some were duplicate calls about the same issue. He did not say what that issue was.
"We're really going through the file....trying to understand exactly what the reasoning was behind that," DCFS Director Bobby Cagle told CBS Los Angeles Monday. "Hopefully, if there are things that we can change, we will do that."
Brandon Nichols, deputy director of the agency, told the Los Angeles Times in an interview Monday that Anthony "said he liked boys" before his death, but declined to provide more details, including whom the boy told and when. Authorities are reportedly investigating whether homophobia played a role in his death.
Cagle said the department visited the home eight times, taking the boy out of the home to talk to him privately for the last time in 2016. Anthony was also removed from the home in 2013 after the agency received a call about alleged sexual abuse at the hands of his grandfather. The grandfather was subsequently removed from the home.
From April to December of 2014, the family received weekly visits from the agency. Investigators believe the boy suffered physical and emotional abuse, denial of food, general neglect, forced fights between the children in the home and forced crouching for long periods of time as punishment.
Anthony's father, who lives in Mexico, told CBS Los Angeles he and the boy's grandmother had suspected the boy was being abused.
During their previous investigations, deputies found another seven children, aged 11 months to 12 years, in the home. Some were living in the home and some were associated with Anthony's family.
While there have been no criminal charges in the case, Cagle says the mother's story claiming Anthony fell and hurt his head does not pass muster.
"He had a severe head injury consistent with a brain bleed, plus bruises and abrasions all about his body," said Cagle. " All that indicates to me that that's non-accidental."
Cagle said the department is trying to find the best placement for Anthony's six siblings. He promised the investigation would be detailed and transparent.