California mother, boyfriend hit with ‘murder and torture’ charge in 10-year-old boy’s death, officials say

Authorities in California on Friday said they have charged a 10-year-old boy’s mother and her boyfriend with murder and torture following the child’s death earlier this month.

Heather Maxine Barron and Kareem Ernesto Leiva both are accused of one count of murder and torture, while Barron was additionally charged with child abuse and Leiva was charged with one count of assault on a child causing death, said a news release from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Authorities arrived at a residence in Lancaster, Calif., on June 20 after receiving a 911 call; there they found 10-year-old Anthony Avalos unresponsive, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department previously said. The boy had reportedly sustained injuries from a fall. He was brought to a local hospital, where he died the next day.

The sheriff’s department labeled Avalos’ death “suspicious”; the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services said there were signs of “physical abuse, including signs of being severely beaten, as well as malnourishment.”

Prosecutors on Friday accused the pair “of torturing the boy” before he died.

This undated photo provided by David Barron shows Anthony Avalos. Los Angeles County prosecutors have charged a mother and her boyfriend with murder and torture in the death of Avalos, the woman's 10-year-old son. Prosecutors said Friday, June 29, 2018 that Heather Maxine Barron and Kareem Ernesto Leiva are each charged with one count of murder and torture. (David Barron via AP)

Prosecutors on Friday accused the pair “of torturing the boy” before he died.

Leiva was taken into custody on Wednesday, while Barron was arrested on Friday, officials said. Investigators said the arrests came after authorities found evidence showing that the report about Avalos falling down the stairs was untrue.

“We do feel he suffered a traumatic brain injury that resulted in a bleed that resulted in the failure of his organs,” Sheriff’s Lt. Derrick Alfred said.

County child welfare officials received a dozen referrals of suspected child abuse about the boy from 2013 until 2016, officials have said.

After Anthony’s death, child welfare officials removed eight other children — between 11 months and 12 years old — from the home. They are being cared for by county child welfare workers, officials said.

If the pair are found guilty of the charges against them, Barron could face to up to 22 years to life behind bars, while Leiva could be sentenced to 32 years to life in prison, prosecutors said.

Stephen Sorace and Kathleen Joyce and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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