The final 4 years of Anthony Avalos’ life had been almost fixed torture.
The Antelope Valley boy would spend hours locked in a room with no entry to meals, water or a toilet. His physique was wracked with welts produced by the lashes of belts and electrical cables. Wounds on his knees would scab over and reopen after he was pressured to kneel on raw rice and concrete. His blood dotted the room the place he slept.
Anthony’s mom, Heather Barron, and her boyfriend, Kareem Leiva, sat stoically in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom Wednesday as prosecutors opened the trial in opposition to them by outlining the horrific abuse the couple is accused of inflicting on the boy, who in the end died of head trauma in 2018. They’ve pleaded not responsible to torturing and murdering Anthony, and to abusing two of Barron’s different youngsters. If convicted of all expenses, they face life in jail.
On the time, Anthony’s demise uncovered the failure of Los Angeles County’s social providers system to guard the 10-year-old and his siblings regardless of greater than a dozen experiences from kin alleging Leiva and Barron had been abusive. Now, the beginning of the trial 4 and half years later has turned the main focus squarely on the tragedy of the boy’s quick, pain-filled life and the individuals accused of ending it so violently.
“She’s been torturing her youngsters for an extended time frame,” L.A. County Deputy Dist. Atty. Saeed Teymouri stated of Barron on Wednesday. “As soon as defendant Leiva got here into the image, it turned lethal.”
Though Leiva admitted to severely abusing the boy in a recorded interview with Sheriff’s Division investigators that was performed in court docket Wednesday, his legal professional, Dan Chambers, argued that Leiva didn’t trigger Anthony’s demise and must be acquitted of his homicide.
Barron’s legal professional, Nancy Sperber, declined to present a gap assertion. In the course of the trial, Sperber is predicted to attempt to shift blame onto Leiva. Barron has alleged in interviews with police that Leiva additionally abused her.
As an alternative of a jury trial, each defendants opted to have Los Angeles County Superior Court docket Decide Sam Ohta render a verdict within the case.
A 2019 Instances investigation offered a timeline of Anthony’s devastating life. When he was 4 years outdated, his mom instructed kin that her son had been sexually abused by a member of the family. Two years later, the boy’s aunt, Crystal Diuguid, instructed a therapist that Barron was beating Anthony and locking him in a room.
The experiences of violence in opposition to the boy grew extra extreme. Sooner or later, he confirmed as much as faculty with wounds believed to have been attributable to BB gun pellets, in response to The Instances’ report. He instructed a vice principal that his mom’s abuse included forcing him to carry a squatted place for lengthy durations of time together with his arms outstretched, which she referred to as “the captain’s chair.” A relative referred to as an abuse hotline alleging that Leiva had dangled the kids over a balcony and threatened to drop them, and typically picked Anthony up by his armpits earlier than slamming him headfirst into the bottom.
Within the midst of the abuse, Anthony wrote a suicide word, in response to information beforehand reviewed by The Instances.
Throughout his opening assertion on Wednesday, Teymouri detailed an inventory of burns, cuts and malnutrition the boy suffered, and repeatedly displayed footage of his battered physique that had been taken within the hospital earlier than he died. Sobs escaped from the gallery each couple of minutes as kin handed round a field of tissues.
Flipping between an image of a youthful, more healthy and smiling Anthony and a picture of the boy mendacity in a hospital mattress with sunken, bloody eyes and a physique lined in cuts and bruises, Teymouri appeared on the defendants and stated: “They turned this lovely 10-year-old boy from this, to this.”
Anthony was brain-dead and had no pulse when paramedics arrived at his household’s Lancaster residence in June 2018, in response to Teymouri. Barron instructed paramedics the boy had thrown himself to the bottom and harm his head, however Teymouri stated a few of the different youngsters in the home later instructed police he had been unconscious for almost two days. In that point, Teymouri stated, Leiva fled the house and signed over guardianship of his personal 5 youngsters to kin, fearing he can be arrested.
On the trial, which is predicted to last as long as six weeks, a number of medical doctors and paramedics are anticipated to testify that Barron didn’t look bothered, and at different occasions gave the impression to be feigning tears, whereas her son lay unconscious and dying. Different witnesses are anticipated to color Leiva as a violent gang member who starved and beat the kids at any time when they had been out of Barron’s sight.
Along with figuring out the defendants’ guilt or innocence, the trial may even function a referendum on the county’s Division of Kids and Household Providers.
Barron’s sister-in-law, Maria Barron, took the stand Wednesday and wept after prosecutors replayed a name her husband had made to a county hotline in 2015, detailing abuse Anthony and the opposite youngsters allegedly suffered from Leiva. After the report was filed, Maria Barron stated, the company allowed her sister-in-law to have an unsupervised go to with the kids, throughout which she recorded them recanting the abuse allegations. The company’s caseworkers later returned the kids to Leiva and Barron, who reduce off contact together with her sister-in-law.
“We weren’t allowed to see the children anymore … we couldn’t save them,” Maria Barron stated.
It was the primary of many failures. The company, which was monitoring Anthony for many of a four-year interval from 2013 to 2017, obtained no less than 13 experiences about him in that point from kin, lecturers, counselors and police, but the boy remained in Leiva and Barron’s residence. No DCFS staff have been disciplined in reference to the case, the company has stated.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Division Det. Chris Wyatt additionally took a report that alleged Leiva had abused one other one among Barron’s youngsters. Wyatt noticed wounds on the kid’s ear, however made no try to search out Leiva or pursue an investigation, in response to the detective’s grand jury testimony. Regardless of investigating the household for 3 years, DCFS staff by no means interviewed Leiva, in response to case notes beforehand reviewed by The Instances.
The case has typically drawn comparisons to the torture and homicide of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez, whose case additionally highlighted main flaws inside DCFS. Prosecutors tried to cost 4 social staff for failing to correctly report the abuse suffered by Gabriel, however an appellate court docket threw the case out.
Prosecutors didn’t attempt to carry expenses in opposition to DCFS staff in Anthony’s demise, although counselor Barbara Dixon was positioned on probation by a state board for failing to report suspected abuse of each boys earlier than their deaths.