A Lancaster woman and her boyfriend were found guilty of torturing and m*urdering Anthony Avalos, her 10-year-old son.
Judge Sam Ohta found Heather Maxine Barron, 33, and Kareem Ernesto Leiva, 37, guilty of first-degree mu*rder and torture in Anthony’s death on June 21, 2018.
The judge determined that the mu*rder allegation involving the use of torture was true. The defendants were also found guilty of two counts of child abuse involving the victim’s half-siblings, known in court as “Destiny O.” and “Rafael O.”
According to the judge, the defendants took pleasure in witnessing Anthony’s pain and suffering. Anthony was also severely malnourished, dehydrated, and had suffered significant head injuries, according to the judge.
“The acts of knowingly denying Anthony access to liquids entail each defendant actively locking Anthony’s bedroom door for the substantial duration of the period required to cause severe dehydration, or when Anthony was not locked in his room.” For each, to keep a close eye on him or to deny him access to liquids. According to the evidence presented at trial, both defendants Leiva and Barron independently entered Anthony’s room at different times. This meant each had to lock his door when each exited. This was clearly a purposeful and coordinated action by both the parents meeting the requirement of willfully,” the judge read.
When they are sentenced on April 25th, Leiva and Barron face life in prison without the possibility of parole as the maximum penalty.
“There were numerous opportunities for Barron to demonstrate that she was not involved in Anthony’s injury.” Anthony was pronounced dead at Mattel Children’s Hospital on June 21st, 2018, around 6:30 a.m. On June 20th, 2018, she went to AV hospital around 12:30 p.m. and spoke with both hospital staff and sheriff’s personnel about what had happened to Anthony. Common sense suggests that parents value their children’s lives more than their own, and many would risk their own lives to save their child’s. Even if the defendant was influenced by defendant Levia’s fear, which caused her to fail to protect Anthony in the apartment, she knew Anthony was on the verge of death in the hospital and had no immediate access to harming her. Under those circumstances, most, if not all, reasonable parents would prioritize the child’s life and would have told the medical staff the truth in order to save her child.” Judge Ohta read in a staggering 52-page report.
The victim’s family testified that they had repeatedly reported the abuse to the Department of Children and Family Services and wished for the couple to be sentenced to death. They praised Ohta and the prosecutors while criticizing not only Gascon but also the Department of Children and Family Services.
Following the appointment of District Attorney George Gascón, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office withdrew its pursuit of the death penalty against the two individuals, despite the opposition of Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami. Gascón had issued an order stating that “a death sentence is never a suitable outcome in any case.”
Hatami expressed his disappointment following the verdict, claiming that George Gascón had refused to meet with him or the victim’s family and had shown no willingness to consider the evidence presented. Hatami questioned the character of someone who acted in such a way.
The prosecutor claimed during closing arguments that the two defendants were “monstrous” and “wicked,” and that they should be held accountable for the torture and k*illing of the 10-year-old boy. Barron and Leiva’s defense attorneys, on the other hand, argued that their clients should be acquitted of the most serious charges.
“I do believe that you will see this was intentional mu*rder by torture,” Hatami told the judge.
The prosecutor noted that the defendants had attempted to shift blame for the boy’s injuries onto Anthony by claiming he had thrown himself on the ground and refused to eat, but evidence had revealed that these claims were false. The boy had suffered from blunt force trauma up to three weeks before his death, it was discovered.
Hatami informed the judge that the prosecution believed the boy died as a result of a combination of factors such as starvation, dehydration, blunt force trauma, persistent child abuse, torture, and failure to seek medical care.
Doctor Wong testified during the trial that Anthony had suffered injuries consistent with being forced to kneel on uncooked rice, being slammed or pushed into the corner of a room, and being struck with a cord, resulting in whip-like marks. The doctor discovered burn marks on the boy’s body as well.
The dependents, according to the judge, failed to assist or care for Anthony.
According to the deputy district attorney, the prosecution was convinced that “both of these defendants are inherently wicked,” and that both individuals had histories of abuse prior to their relationship.
“Together, they were deadly,” Hatami told the judge, explaining that Barron was the one who “came up with many of these torture techniques” and that she chose Leiva to be the enforcer for the discipline used on the boy and two of his half-siblings.
“They’re evil, evil, evil people.” Hatami described them as “monsters” for what they did.
The prosecutor presented extensive evidence of the numerous torturous acts that Anthony had endured at the hands of both defendants, including frequent belt and cord beatings.
The prosecutor, along with his colleague Saeed Teymouri, contended that Barron and Leiva’s motivation for dialing 911 on June 20, 2018, was to protect themselves rather than to save Anthony’s life. The boy had been left on Barron’s floor for nearly two days after two weeks of abuse, and Barron had kept Leiva’s role in the ordeal hidden. Barron had also instructed Anthony’s two half-siblings on what to say to authorities.
The prosecutor also stated that previous reports of child abuse had been dismissed or ignored.
“She was not a victim of intimate partner violence.” “She was covering up,” the prosecutor said of Barron’s questioning following a call to a child abuse hotline in September 2015, in which alleged abuse was reported.
Barron, according to the prosecutor, had seven children within eight years in order to receive government benefits. Nancy Sperber, one of Barron’s attorneys, claimed that her client was a victim of battered woman syndrome and that Leiva had accepted responsibility for all violent acts committed against Anthony.
Sperber contended that Barron was powerless to stop the abuse and could not say no to Leiva. She also claimed that Barron was a victim of a “cycle of abuse” that began with her alleged abuse by her stepfather as a child.
Sperber also claimed that Leiva was in charge of house discipline and that he forced the children to fight each other when Barron was not present.
Barron’s attorney, on the other hand, agreed with the prosecutor’s assessment of Leiva as “evil.”
Sperber claims that Leiva survived his own attempt to slit his throat because he is “so evil” that even the devil doesn’t want him. She claimed that during an interview with detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Leiva admitted to brutalizing Anthony and confessed to all acts of violence and torture.
Sperber also stated that Leiva was in charge of house discipline and forced the children to fight when they were left in his care while Barron was not present.
In terms of Barron’s role in the abuse, Sperber contended that she was a victim of a “cycle of abuse” that began when she was abused repeatedly as a child by her stepfather. Sperber claimed that Barron lacked the authority to stop the abuse and was a victim of Leiva’s violent behavior. She also stated that Barron’s initial statements to investigators were a result of battered woman syndrome rather than a mu*rderous intent.
Barron’s attorney disputed the prosecution’s assertion that the defendants had meticulously planned the abuse, claiming that they lacked the ability to do so.
In response, the prosecutor argued that the defendants had demonstrated enough sophistication to deceive law enforcement and the Department of Children and Family Services for several years.
In his closing argument, Leiva’s attorney, Dan Chambers, acknowledged that the case involved extreme and unjustified behavior, but he argued that there was no intent to k*ill.
Chambers claimed there was “reasonable doubt” about the cause of Anthony’s death and whether there was a murderous intent.
The defense attorney argued that the testimony of two of Anthony’s younger half-siblings and one of Leiva’s daughters, who testified that they saw Leiva repeatedly dropping Anthony, combined with the medical evidence, would raise reasonable doubt about intent to k*ill. He also mentioned that the kids initially denied any knowledge of wrongdoing and only changed their stories after speaking with the cops.
“Sometimes kids are just wrong. It’s not a matter of lying,” he told the judge.
Leiva’s 18-year-old daughter testified that she saw her father drop Anthony on the floor several times, and when she saw him two days later, he appeared to be dead.
Barron and Leiva were charged with Anthony’s mu*rder in June 2018, and a grand jury in Los Angeles County indicted them in October 2018. They are currently detained without the option of bail.
In October, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a $32 million settlement for the boy’s relatives, who had filed a lawsuit against the county’s Department of Children and Family Services. According to the lawsuit, several social workers failed to adequately respond to reports of abuse against Anthony and his siblings. Last week, two of the boy’s relatives testified.
foxla.com is the source.