LOS ANGELES (KABC) — On Wednesday, jurors from across Los Angeles County will begin to learn about the short life and slow death of Anthony Avalos.
He was 10 years old when he died from a head injury in June 2018, with several others on his body. His mother, Heather Barron, and her boyfriend, Kareem Leiva, face charges of murder, torture and child abuse.
The LA County Department of Children and Family Services began receiving hotline calls alleging the couple had abused the little boy and his siblings years ago.
School staff, social workers and family members each reported that Barron and Leiva beat the children, forced them to hit each other, locked them in their rooms for hours, denied them food and toilet breaks, among other things.
DCFS claimed many of the calls were idle.
The DCFS’s flaws were eventually exposed, leading to a multi-million dollar settlement and reforms.
READ MORE: LA County Approves $32 Million Settlement Over Death of Anthony Avalos
Among those who called the hotline to testify is Barron’s brother, David. He and his wife Maria were fierce advocates in seeking justice for Anthony.
“Let me tell you, he gave the most amazing hugs ever,” Maria Barron said. “He’s always been willing to let you know how much he loves you.”
David remembers taking Anthony fishing one day to celebrate an award he received at school.
“There were no fish in the lake at the time, so I would go to the store and buy fish, put it on a hook and throw it out there, and everyone would take turns thinking they caught fish,” David said. “That was one of my last memories of Anthony.”
They plan to participate every day of the five-week process.
“We’re almost there,” Maria Barron said. “You know, we’re just waiting for this to be done. I know it’s going to be hard because just thinking about everything he’s been through just breaks my heart. What was on his mind? No one was there, help him.”
If convicted, Heather Barron and Leiva face the maximum possible life sentence without parole.
Prosecutors originally called for the death penalty, but the district attorney’s office changed course in May 2021.