The mother of a 10-year-old boy who was allegedly tortured and killed after coming out as bisexual could face the death penalty, along with her boyfriend.
Heather Maxine Barron, 29, and her boyfriend Kareem Ernesto Leiva, 32, entered not guilty pleas on Wednesday (October 3) after being charged with murdering Anthony Avalos in his California home in June.
Barron and Levia both face charges which include murder involving the infliction of torture, meaning that prosecutors could decide to seek the death penalty in the event that they’re found guilty.
Brandon Nichols, deputy director of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Families (DFCS), has stated that Anthony said “he liked boys and girls” before his death on June 21.
The 10-year-old suffered head injuries and cigarette burns all over his body.
The agency opened 18 different investigations into the household from 2013 onwards, which included 88 allegations of child abuse, sexual abuse and child neglect, according to NBC Los Angeles.
Anthony was even removed from his home for several months and only returned after his relatives received counselling.
Barron and Leiva are also both charged with one count of torture and child abuse, with the child abuse charge allegedly including another victims.
The mother is also charged with a second count of child abuse which involves Anthony, while her boyfriend faces a count of assault on a child causing death.
Prosecutors have said the child’s torture included being starved, beaten, slammed into the bedroom floor, whipped with a belt and chord, forbidden from using the bathroom and having hot sauce poured into his mouth.
They said his parents forced Anthony and his eight sisters and brothers to fight each other, as well as making the other children—aged between 11 months and 12 years old—watch Anthony in order to force him to stay standing or kneeling.
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“At one point,” the court documents allege, “Anthony could not walk, was unconscious lying on his bedroom floor for hours, was not provided medical attention, and could not eat on his own.
“During the five or six days mentioned above, all nine children were residing in the Lancaster apartment where the crimes took place.”
The horrific injuries suffered by Anthony were laid out by Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami, who was also a prosecutor in the case of Gabriel Fernandez, an eight-year-old who was brutally tortured and killed because his mother Pearl Fernandez and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, thought he was gay.
The motion states that when he was brought into hospital, the 10-year-old was in full cardiac arrest, had to be intubated because he couldn’t breathe on his own, had suffered a “traumatic brain injury” and had a brain bleed.
Anthony also had reddened eyes, as well as cuts, bruises and abrasions all over his body, from his forehead to his
feet, according to the documents.
Barron and Leiva said that his death was down to an accidental fall.
The two defendants have been told to return to court on November 27.
Attendees of Anthony’s funeral wore superhero shirts in the 10-year-old’s memory, with his aunt Maria Barron telling PinkNews that it was “the perfect way to honour him.
His favourite superheroes were Batman and Spiderman, she said, adding that “he could never choose.”