LOS ANGELES – A California woman and her boyfriend were charged Friday in the death of the woman and her 10-year-old son, who had previously reported being beaten, locked up and not fed, prosecutors said.
Heather Maxine Barron and Kareem Ernesto Leiva were each charged with one count of murder and torture.
Barron faces an additional count of child abuse, and Leiva faces an additional count of assault on a child resulting in death.
Police officers were called to a home in Lancaster, north of Los Angeles, on June 20, after Barron called 911 to report that the boy had fallen down the stairs.
Deputies found him not respond in the house and he died in hospital the following day.
Detectives deemed Anthony’s death “suspicious” and the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services said there were signs of “physical abuse, including signs of heavy beaten, as well as malnutrition.”
Leiva was Wednesday arrested after he was questioned by the sheriff of the researchers and Barron was taken into custody Friday, officials said. It was not clear whether they had lawyers who could respond to the allegations.
The researchers said the two were arrested after evidence is discovered that Barron’s story about her son falling down the stairs was false.
“We are of the opinion that he suffered a traumatic brain injury that resulted in a bleeding that resulted in the failure of his organs, the” sheriff’s Lt. Derrick Alfred said.
County child welfare officials had a dozen referrals of suspected child abuse on the boy from 2013 to 2016, the officials said.
After Anthony’s death, child welfare officials removed eight other children — between 11 months and 12 years old — of the house. They are cared for by county child welfare workers, officials said.
On Friday, Anthony’s aunt, gathered with the family of the lawyer and the members of the community to demand authorities release additional information about previous research and visits to the house.
“This young boy must be rescued from this house,” said the family lawyer, Brian Claypool. “Had Anthony Avalos rescued and removed after the colossal red flags we saw — 16 reports that we have heard — he would still be alive today.”
Child welfare officials said Anthony had removed from his home for a number of months to a number of the reports of abuse were substantiated. He was returned after family members received in-home counseling, the agency said.
The agency said it confirmed two allegations with sexual abuse when Anthony was 4, but the case was closed when it was determined that his mother was properly caring for him. The last reference about Anthony was in April of 2016 alleged neglect. He was interviewed, and the allegations were deemed unfounded or inconclusive, the officials said.
“Anthony’s dream of becoming a police officer or a firefighter will never be fulfilled,” his aunt, Mary Barron said. “But don’t worry, my dear boy, that you always loved, never forgotten. Anthony, you will always be in our hearts.”
Associated Press writer John Antczak contributed to this report.
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