Both the mother and boyfriend have now been arrested in connection with the death of 10-year-old Anthony Avalos a week before.
The death of the Southern California boy may have resulted from his admission that he liked boys.
His mother, Heather Barron, 28, was arrested Friday and charged with murder, torture, and child abuse resulting in death, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.
On June 20, Avalos was found with severe injuries at the family’s apartment, in Lancaster, north of Los Angeles. He died the next day. Investigators removed eight other children, ages 11 months to 12 years, from the home.
It took a week for authorities to make the first arrest — the mother’s boyfriend, Kareem Leiva, 32. Barron was then arrested two days later.
The Department of Children and Family Services acknowledged that, over time, it had received dozens of reports related to Anthony — sexual, emotional and physical abuse and general neglect. The last one was two years ago.
The Los Angeles Times reports that DCFS Deputy Director Brandon Nichols said in a June 25 interview that Anthony “said he liked boys.” A sheriff’s captain then said homophobia had not come up as a motive in the investigation.
The mother and boyfriend are both accused of torturing the boy in the days leading to his death, according to the office of the district attorney. DCFS director Bobby Cagle said in a June 26 statement that Anthony was found malnourished and severely beaten.
If convicted, the mother faces 22 years to life in prison, and the boyfriend faces 32 years to life.
The case has ominous parallels to the 2013 death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez, whose parents fatally abused him because they thought he was gay.
LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn shared her perspective on Anthony’s case.
“We failed Anthony,” Hahn said. “I hope to get answers in the coming days as to what went wrong.”