Sister of 10-year-old boy ‘tortured to death by his mother and stepfather after he told them he was gay’ tells grand jury he was intentionally dropped on his head 10 times the night before he died
Court records in the alleged torture death of Anthony Avalos were unsealed Monday after a grand jury indicted his mother and stepfather, reveal extensive pattern of torture and child abuse
Anthony’s eight-year-old sister described how Heather Barron, 29, and Kareem Leiva, 32, allegedly abused her and her two brothers by beating and starving them
On June 19, the night before Anthony was found unresponsive ‘Kareem picked him up from his armpits and dropped him on the floor about 10 times’
Heather Barron said she was going to take her son to the hospital but instead left him sleeping, and the next morning he wouldn’t wake up
Instead, she called 911 and told the operator he fell down the stairs at their home in Lancaster, California
Anthony Barron was taken off life support the following day, June 21, 2018 and a coroner’s report revealed bruises, abrasions and burn marks all over his body
Prosecutors say the boy was abused for a week before his death, after he told his mother and her boyfriend he was gay
Barron and Leiva are now facing capital murder charges in Anthony’s death
The harrowing final hours of the 10-year-old abused and tortured to death by his mother and her boyfriend, who is also an MS-13 gang member, have been revealed in court records.
Transcripts from the murder case of Anthony Avalos were unsealed by a judge on Monday, days after the boy’s mother Heather Maxine Barron and stepfather Kareem Leiva were indicted for capital murder by a grand jury.
Related: Dead 10-year-old Anthony Avalos, came out as gay just weeks before he was found in his California home suffering severe head trauma and covered in cigarette burns – CPS disregarded 16 calls claiming he was being abused
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Anthony was found unresponsive in the family’s home in Lancaster, California, on June 20 after his mother called 911 to say he had fallen down the stairs.
However, during grand jury proceedings the boy’s eight-year-old sister painted a different picture of the hours before Anthony’s death.
When asked about the time leading up to Anthony’s death, the girl said: ‘A lot of times he got hurt, and one morning he woke up and … was acting a little weird.
‘My mom said that they were gonna go to the hospital, and Anthony said he wanted to sleep, so my mom let him sleep for a little, and when he woke up, my mom said he wasn’t breathing.”
She said: ‘The night before my mom told Anthony that they were gonna go to the hospital, Kareem picked him up from his armpits and dropped him on the floor. He did that about 10 times.’
When Anthony didn’t wake up the following morning, the girl said Barron threw cold water on him before carrying him downstairs and calling 911.
His sister said he looked ‘frozen’.
Within 24 hours, Anthony would be taken off life support.
‘The coroner’s report indicated that there was blunt force trauma to his head and his brain and also multiple blunt force trauma to his body,’ Hatami told grand jurors.
‘There were injuries to Anthony’s side and his hip area, both his left hip and his right hip, and his arms, and even injuries to his feet.’
The prosecutor added that the 10-year-old had circular marks on his stomach and below his nipple, abrasions on his knees and back, and contusions and scabs on all four of his extremities.
Hatami then went on to list how the boy sustained the injuries, claiming that Barron, 29, and Leiva, 32, would beat Anthony – with belts, a vacuum hose, a vacuum cord, with fists, wrestling moves, chokeholds, feet.
They would slap him in the face, slam his head into the floor and make him fight with his siblings, Hatami said.
They’d torture the boy with hot sauce, by making him kneel on rice and making him hold books and weights for hours on end.
When they weren’t actively abusing the boy, Hatami said, the couple would lock Anthony in his room for days without food or water.
‘The evidence will clearly show that Leiva and Barron are ultimately responsible for the torture and eventual murder of Anthony,’ the prosecutor said at the end of his opening statement.
‘The evidence will show that Barron, who’s Anthony’s biological mother, and Leiva, who’s six feet one inch, 200 pounds, brutally, brutally tortured and intentionally murdered 10-year-old Anthony.’
Prosecutors claim that Anthony suffered severe torture in the five or six days before his death because he had told his mother and stepfather that he was gay.
Neither the defendants nor their defense attorneys were in the courtroom during the grand jury proceedings as the 25-person jury were tasked with determining whether Barron and Leiva should be indicted.
Records from the proceedings were kept secret until the jury made its decision last week and the couple were indicted for capital murder.
The prosecution’s key witness was Anthony’s younger sister, who prosecutors say was also abused by Barron and Leiva.
Heather Barron [photo], participated in some of the abuse and would also watch while her boyfriend, Kareem Leiva, tortured her children, her daughter told the grand jury
When the girl took the stand, Hatami started his questioning by holding up various photographs of her and her siblings with Barron and Leiva as the witness identified each person.
‘Do you still love your mom?’ Hatami asked the girl.
‘Yes,’ she replied, noting that she misses Anthony.
Hatami showed the girl one picture and asked her describe what was going on when it was taken.
She recounted a day that her and Anthony’s seven-year-old brother was in trouble, and Leiva made the boy kneel in the corner.
‘If you didn’t do that and you cried ’cause it hurts, you would get rice there and go on your knees,’ the girl said.
She said she had also been forced to kneel on the painful rice at the instruction of both Leiva and Barron.
‘When (my other brother), me and Anthony were in trouble, we would go on the rice and Kareem would spank us with the belt on our feet,’ the girl told the grand jury.
‘It hurt, so we were crying.’
Leiva would press his feet into their knees to push them down into the rice and wouldn’t let up until they stopped crying.
The girl added that after she or her brothers were done being punished with the rice, she would be charged with cleaning up the mess.
‘Was there any blood on the rice?’ Hatami asked.
‘Yes,’ the girl responded, telling the grand jury that Anthony had lots of ‘boo-boos’ on his knees because of the rice punishment.
Anthony’s sister told the court: ‘One time, Kareem dragged [Anthony] on the carpet and he got a rug burn.’
She also said sometimes she and her siblings would be forced to stand in the corner from when they’d get home from school until 8pm.
‘Sometimes we would like go in the hallway, the little wall between my room and my mom’s room, we would have to go there on our knees and carry books and with two weights on top, tied all together, and we would have to hold it for like 10 minutes,’ the eight-year-old recalled.
‘What about if you couldn’t hold them?’ Hatami asked.
‘If they fall, we would have to start all over again and get another hour,’ she replied.
The girl also told of another incident when Leiva punished Anthony by making him carry a brick that had been thrown through their car window.
She said Anthony was crying as Barron ‘was just in the room yelling at him to stop crying’.
‘The boys would be in trouble, so Kareem would have me and (my other brother) beat up Anthony or me and Anthony beat up (my other brother). Kareem would have us pinch him or sock him,’ she said.
The girl said her mother was often watching the abuse but never tried to intervene.
She told of one incident when Leiva punished Anthony by making him carry a brick that had been thrown through their car window – and Barron ‘was just in the room yelling at him to stop crying’.
On at least one other occasion, Leiva beat Anthony with a vacuum cord while their mother watched, she said.
The eight-year-old said both adults would make them do ‘captain’s chair’, where one stands against the wall with knees bent like sitting in a chair while holding themselves up with their legs.
Anthony’s aunt, Maria Barron [photo, left], seen with the victim. said she reported his mother and her boyfriend to authorities years ago but nothing was done to remove him or his seven siblings from the home.
If the kids moved or cried, the girl said, they had to start all over again or would have to do exercises from a workout list.
The girl described how the siblings were fed plain peanut butter sandwiches or peanut butter on a corn tortilla as Leiva held a stopwatch.
‘Kareem would time us for two minutes or five to eat the tortilla or sandwich, and if we didn’t get it on time because it’s nasty we would get Sriracha or Tapatio on it,’ she said.
She said Leiva put an alarm on her brothers’ bedroom door because one time the seven-year-old sneaked out in the middle of the night to look for food.
‘They said that since we are in trouble, we can’t have real food. They say that that’s a privilege,’ the girl told the jury.
Who dropped the ball? 16 separate reports to DCFS over the years from relatives, school administrators, teachers and counselors that Anthony and his seven siblings were being abused in their home yielded no results, until the 10-year-old died
Authorities say child protective services had received at least 16 calls from community members concerned that Barron and Leiva were abusing Anthony and the other two children
After Anthony was taken off life support, homicide detectives quickly deemed the boy’s death suspicious as there were signs he had been severely beaten and was malnourished.
It emerged after the boy’s death that child protective services had received at least 16 calls alleging that Barron and Leiva were abusing Anthony and the other two children.
School administrators and family members, as well as a teacher and a counselor, had all called in to voice their concerns.
They reported that the children were allegedly being sexually abused, beaten, forced to fight one another and made to eat from the trash.
The callers also reported that the children were being denied food and water and were forced to crouch for hours.
A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s spokesman revealed that child protective services had come to the house at least once for child abuse allegations involving one of Anthony’s siblings.