A grand jury indictment was unsealed Wednesday morning in the tragic death of a 10-year-old Lancaster boy whose mother and her boyfriend are accused of torturing and killing.
The boy's mother, Heather Maxine Barron, 29, and her boyfriend, Kareem Ernesto Leiva, 32, were charged with capital murder in the death of Anthony Avalos, including being accused of torturing him in the days leading up to his June 21 death. They pleaded not guilty earlier this year.
The pair are due back in court in Lancaster Nov. 27, when a date will be set for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to require the two to stand trial. In court papers filed in July, prosecutors contended that Anthony was severely tortured during the last five or six days of his life and alleged that Barron and Leiva "abused, beat, assaulted and tortured" the boy.
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 the court papers.
Deputies and paramedics responded to a 911 call from Barron about 12:15 p.m. June 20 and found her son unresponsive inside his family's apartment.
Authorities said they were told that the child had suffered injuries from a fall, but investigators quickly classified the death as "suspicious."
At a July 17 news conference, an attorney representing the boy's family called for a criminal investigation into social workers who investigated allegations of abuse in the household. Brian Claypool said there were red flags and the house was "replete with horror."
In a statement released shortly after the family's news conference, DCFS Director Bobby Cagle said, "As our department grieves the senseless death of Anthony Avalos, my primary focus must be on the in-depth, top-to-bottom review now underway to determine exactly what happened and what needs to happen to safeguard innocent lives going forward."