Kareem Ernesto Leiva, a 37-year-old native of El Salvador and currently residing in the U.S. without legal permission, is expected to stand trial next week for the awful murder of his girlfriend’s 10-year-old son in California in 2018.
Leiva and Heather Maxine Barron, 33, have both been charged with murder and torture in the death of her son, Anthony Avalos, as well as child abuse of two other children in the house. It has been reported that the child had been tormented and inflicted with immense physical pain and suffering, such as being whipped, starved, and even forced to kneel on rice.
Leiva is also accused of attacking another inmate while in jail, in addition to domestic violence against females in both 2010 and 2013. His brother, Mauricio Leiva, is another alleged MS-13 member who was indicted in a federal racketeering case against a drug ring in 2016.
Leiva and Barron’s trial is set to begin next week, with Jonathan Hatami (who was the lead prosecutor in the Gabriel Fernandez trial) and Saeed Teymouri chosen to take on the case.
Prosecutors stated that Barron and Leiva had cruelly punished Anthony, the child, with hot sauce, whippings and hanging him upside down. They claimed that the torture had been going on for nearly two weeks prior to the paramedics finding Anthony’s body, lifeless.
Besides this, Anthony and his siblings were victims of other forms of abuse such as being burned with a curling iron and locked in their rooms for hours. On June 20, 2018, Barron made a 911 call, saying that her son was unconscious.
Upon arriving at the scene, the police saw that Anthony was not breathing with bruises and abrasions on the body. There were also circular burn marks on his stomach. After being taken to the hospital, the doctors found Anthony to be severely malnourished and dehydrated.
The Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner ruled Anthony’s death as a homicide, citing blunt-force head trauma as the primary cause of death. The court documents also mentioned that Anthony was made to fight other children, thrown into furniture, beaten with a ping-pong paddle, given rug burn, and held up by his feet before being dropped on his head.
The day before the 911 call, it was said that Anthony was unable to walk or eat, yet Barron and Leiva had left him in that state for hours.
Prosecutors allege that the final fatal injuries to Anthony occurred that evening when Leiva struck him on the head multiple times. Barron did not contact the police until the morning after the incident. Leiva took his children and left the home before any authorities had arrived.
It was reported that for years, allegations of child abuse had been made to the county. Even before Barron became involved with Leiva, another man had been accused of sexually assaulting her son when he was only five years old. Although there had been multiple interactions with child services, investigations into the child abuse allegations had been deemed “inconclusive.”
Barron was allowed to keep her seven children, three of which she had with Leiva, along with the five kids he had fathered with three other women. It was reported that Leiva was especially abusive to the children that were not biologically his, and he allegedly admitted to shoving Anthony’s younger brother so hard into a chair that he needed three staples to close a wound in his scalp.
In October, FOX Los Angeles reported that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors had consented to a settlement of $32 million to be paid to Anthony’s family. This settlement was the result of a legal case against the social workers who were involved with the case, asserting that they had not appropriately handled the allegations. Included in the family were Anthony’s father, as well as his mother’s aunts and uncles, who are likely to be witnesses in the upcoming trial against Barron.