10-year-old who came out as gay burned with cigarettes and beaten to death by mum's boyfriend
Police have arrested a woman’s boyfriend in connection with the death of her 10-year-old son who may have come out as gay shortly before he was found dead, reports said.
A man in Lancaster, California have been charged for allegedly killing his girlfriend's 10-year-old son after he reportedly came out as gay.
According to reports, the boy was tortured and died due to severe head injuries.
On Wednesday, a week after Antony Avalos's death on June 20, 32-year-old Kareem Leiva was arrested at the end of an interrogation by Los Angeles County sheriffs.
On June 19, upon arrival at his Lancaster home, authorities found the boy to be unresponsive. The following morning, the boy died after he was taken off life support.
Leiva is reportedly an MS-13 gang member and was previously convicted back in 2010 of domestic abuse. However, back then, child services did not consider him to be a potential threat.
The boy had earlier reported being beaten, locked up and starved, reported county child welfare officials. Leiva had been arrested was arrested following the revelations.
Police are saying that homophobia could also have played a part in the murder of the young kid. Anthony had reportedly "come out of the closet" just weeks before his death.
Over a period of several years, a dozen referrals of suspected child abuse to child welfare officials were directed towards the boy and his family.
That being said, the boy's mother, Heather Barron, has not been charged with any crime after an interview with law enforcement.
"During the course of their interview, suspect Leiva made statements that led detectives to arrest him," Sheriff Jim McDonnell said, but declined to explain in further detail.
Towards the end of Leiva's interrogation with the police, he pulled down a shirt collar to reveal a day-old gouge across his neck, claiming it was a suicide attempt.
At about 12.15 pm on last Wednesday, young Anthony's mother called 911 to report that her son "suffered injuries from a fall", according to investigators.
However, when the officers found him, Anthony had cigarette burns all over his body and critical injuries to the head.
At least 16 calls were made to the Department of Children and Family Services reporting abuse of the children, aged 11 months to 12 years old, by both Heather and Leiva.
Reportedly, several calls were made to the DCFS by school administrators, family members, one of the children's teachers as well as counselor reporting the suspected abuse.
According to DCFS Director Bobby Cagle, the children were allegedly being sexually abused, forced to fight one another, forced to eat from garbage, beaten and bruised.
Shockingly, the children were dangled upside down from the staircase in the house, forced to crouch for several hours, and denied food and drink, according to those to called in.
Having said that, child welfare officials reportedly "grossly overstated" the extent of the boy's injuries, according to Sheriff McDonnell. He confirmed to reporters that detectives did not find any cigarette burns on Anthony's body.
However, until an autopsy was finalized, McDonnell declined to reveal any specific details pertaining to the boy's injuries.
County child welfare workers removed eight other children, aged between 11 months and 12 years, from the house after the news of Anthony's death broke, in order to transfer them to a safer environment.
Sheriff McDonnell said that his deputies had previously responded to Anthony's home several times over the past few years but with no arrests. The most recent response was in April 2016.
During the course of an interview with Homcide Dets, Suspect Kareem Leiva made statements that led Dets to arrest him for the murder of 10yr old Anthony Avalos of Lancaster. We are working closely with the @LADAOffice Complex Child Abuse Unit & DCFS. pic.twitter.com/atfFLj503D— Jim McDonnell (@LACoSheriff) June 28, 2018
He also reported that in order to determine whether proper protocol was followed upon each call, investigators are reviewing each of those cases.
When some of the reports of abuse were substantiated, Anthony was removed from the home for several months, said child welfare officials.
He was reinstated back in the residence after a thorough in-home counseling for the family members.
When Anthony was four years old, two allegations of sexual abuse were reported to the DCFS. However, at the end of each case, it was determined that his mother was caring for him properly and the cases were subsequently closed.
Back in April 2016, when the last referral came in, Anthony was interviewed and the allegations were found to be baseless or inconclusive.
Anthony had previously said he "liked boys", confirmed Brandon Nichols, deputy director of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.
However, Nichols did not reveal when Anthony came out or who he confided to about it.
That being said, it would have taken "immense bravery" for young Anthony to come out as a homosexual, said Maria Barron, his aunt.
She had frequently voiced her concerns about the treatment of Anthony at the hands of his mother Heather Barron and her boorish boyfriend, Kareem Leiva.
Upon noticing bruises that appeared on the bodies of Anthony and his seven siblings, Maria began calling the DCFS back in 2015.
According to her, the children complained that Kareem was the one responsible for the bruises and claimed he forced them to urinate and defecate in the spaces that he locked them in.
During a conversation with the Los Angeles Times, Maria said that to come out as a homosexual in such a hostile family environment " only reinforces how brave Anthony was."