A mother and her boyfriend have been sentenced to life in prison for torturing and murdering her 10-year-old son. Twisted Heather Barron, 33, and Kareem Leiva, 37, beat, starved and brutalised little Anthony Avalos at their home in Lancaster, Southern California. The pair were sentenced on Tuesday after being convicted of first-degree murder involving torture last month in a nonjury trial. They also were found guilty of abusing two other children.
In a the house of horrors the Leiva sprayed hot sauce in the face of the children, forced them to kneel on concrete floors, nails and on uncooked rice, and forced the children to fight one another with the loser punished by him.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Sam Ohta sentenced both Barron and Leiva to life without the possibility of parole, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release.
The judge said Anthony Avalos a “helpless child” dependent on his mother for his basic needs. “Instead Anthony was tortured and killed,” Ohta said. Neither Barron nor Leiva spoke during Tuesday’s hearing, according to the ABC7 TV station.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies went to Anthony’s home in response to a 911 call from Barron on June 20, 2018. They were told that he had been injured in a fall. Anthony died in a hospital the next day. Doctors said he was severely malnourished and dehydrated.
Prosecutors alleged that the boy was intentionally killed by torture. They said that for years he was routinely beaten and whipped with a belt along with the other children, repeatedly dropped on his head, smashed into the floor or furniture, burned with cigarettes and denied water and food at times or force-fed.
Barron’s defense attorney argued that she was herself abused by Leiva and couldn’t stop him from hurting the children.
Last year, Los Angeles County agreed to pay $32 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the boy’s father and three siblings over his death. A home counseling contractor also was sued and previously reached a $3 million deal with the boy’s family.
The lawsuit alleged that the county Department of Children and Family Services disregarded 13 reports of abuse allegations involving Anthony from relatives, teachers, counselors and even law enforcement.
The agency never tried to remove the boy from the home. In the wake of the settlement, the department said it had taken “significant steps to mitigate the risk of harm to children” and was committed to continuing reform.