The mother of a 10-year-old boy in California who died due to injuries sustained in his home, and who recently came out, has been charged with his murder.
Authorities are investigating whether Anthony Avalos telling his family he “liked boys” played a part in his death, for which now his mother, Heather Barron, 28, and her boyfriend, Kareem Leiva, 32, have both been charged with murder, torture, and child abuse.
Both Barron and Leiva (above) made an appearance in the Antelope Valley branch of the Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday. Their arraignments were continued until August 3, according to a court spokesperson, KTLA-5 reports. They are both being held on $2 million bail.
If convicted, Barron faces 22 years to life in prison, while Leiva could get 32 years to life.
Barron called 911 to report that her son had suffered injuries due to a fall. He was found unresponsive and died at the hospital the next day.
The director of the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services said in a statement that there was evidence that the boy was “a victim of physical abuse, including signs of being severely beaten, as well as malnourishment.”
Avalos and his six siblings were allowed to remain in the home despite over a dozen calls placed throughout several years to the Department of Children and Family Services to report signs of abuse, including sexual, physical and emotional. The children were reportedly beaten, kept locked in a small room where they were forced to urinate and defecate on the floor, as well as forced to fight and eat from the trash.
The death bears disturbing similarities to the 2013 murder of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez, who was tortured and killed by his mother and her boyfriend because they thought he was gay.
The Office of Child Protection was established to transform the child welfare system in response to Fernandez’s death, and will take part in the investigation into why Avalos and his siblings weren’t removed from the abusive home.
Two local media reports follow.