Life Without Parole for Couple Found Guilty of Murdering Anthony Avalos 

Heather Barron and Kareem Leiva will spend life in prison for the torture and murder of Barron’s 10-year-old son 

The mother of a Lancaster child and her boyfriend have been sentenced to life without parole for the murder her son, who was found lifeless in 2018 in a home the couple shared in Lancaster.

Heather Barron and Kareem Leiva were convicted in March for the torture and murder of ten year-old Anthony Avalos. On Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Sam Ohta, who presided over the five-week murder trial, sentenced Barron and Leiva to spend the remainder of their lives in prison.

“Anthony was a helpless child who was dependent [on Barron and Leiva] … for his basic physical needs and emotional support,” Ohta said in remarks prior to announcing the sentence. “Instead, Anthony was tortured and killed.”

Judge Ohta sentenced the couple after hours of testimony from relatives of the deceased boy. The two convicts sat mostly stone-faced, bound in handcuffs and dressed in orange prison jumpsuits.

Barron, whose apparent lack of emotion during the murder trial was conspicuous, broke down in tears upon hearing prepared remarks read by her 13-year-old daughter Destiny. “I am finally free from all the torture and abuse,” said Destiny, who today lives with her and Anthony’s younger brother Rafael in the home of a paternal aunt. “But if I were to have known that this would end with me losing my brother I would do it all over again with just one difference, and that it that it would be me and not Anthony.”

On June 21, 2018, at 6:30 a.m., Anthony Avalos was pronounced dead at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital, where he had been airlifted from a hospital in the Antelope Valley. Blunt force trauma and prolonged child neglect were listed as the causes. A few days earlier, a half-starved and brutalized Avalos had told his mother that he might be gay.

Avalos was subjected to years of abuse and neglect that culminated in two weeks of unrelenting torture beginning after he completed the fourth grade in June 2018. Two weeks later, on the day paramedics arrived at the home, they found the boy had stopped breathing and was so malnourished and dehydrated that his veins had collapsed.

As Los Angeles reported in the magazine’s April cover story, virtually every public agency that was supposed to protect children like Avalos failed. The Department of Child and Family Services’ Antelope Valley bureau paid no fewer than 13 calls on the family, and deputies from the Lancaster station of the L.A. County sheriff’s department visited the home. But the reports of abuse were always cleared without referral to a judge or prosecutor.

In a sentencing memorandum, the lead prosecutor of the case, L.A. County deputy district attorney Jon Hatami, and his co-counsel Saeed Teymouri, wrote that Barron and Leiva deserved life in prison because they “assaulted and abused a totally vulnerable victim” and “took the life of an innocent.”

At the request of the defendants, the court agreed to waive the right to a trial by jury and placed the decision in the hands of Judge Ohta.

Moments after bailiffs had removed the defendants from the courtroom, relatives and law enforcement officials held a press conference in the downtown Los Angeles courthouse. Maria Barron, wife of David Barron, Heather Barron’s older brother, expressed relief that the trial was over and that justice had been served.

“I am thankful that the judge gave us the verdict that Anthony deserved and we can move forward from this,” Barron said. “Anything we do, everything we do, will be in Anthony’s honor. We hope that this raises awareness: You see something, say something. We love you, Anthony, and we’ll never forget you.”

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