The mother of a 10-year-old Lancaster, California, boy who came out as gay weeks before his death has been arrested and charged with his murder.
Heather Maxine Barron, 28, was charged with one count of murder and one count of torture for the death of her son, Anthony Avalos, by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office on Friday, according to a press release by the office.
She also faces one count of child abuse. Barron’s bail was set to $2 million, online jail records show.
Her boyfriend, Kareem Leiva, 32, was arrested and charged with Anthony’s murder and torture on Wednesday.
He faces one additional count of assault on a child causing death. His bail was also set to $2 million.
Barron has not yet entered a plea. Her arrangement was postponed to Monday, while Leiva, who is being treated for a laceration in his upper chest, will be arraigned after he is medically cleared, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Anthony died on June 21 after being found unresponsive a day earlier at his family’s apartment.
Barron initially told police he was injured in a fall, authorities say.
An autopsy is not yet complete that would reveal the exact cause and manner of Anthony’s death, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said Wednesday at a news conference announcing Leiva’s arrest.
Officials with the county’s Department of Children and Family Services, which investigated 13 prior allegations of child abuse at the boy’s residence between February 2013 and April 2016, initially raised homophobia as a thread they wanted to investigate in Anthony’s death, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Anthony recently “said he liked boys,” according to DCFS Deputy Director Brandon Nichols, and Anthony’s aunt said it would have been a brave move for him to come out as gay in his home, the newspaper reported.
But when asked Wednesday if homophobia may have been a motivation in the boy’s death, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Capt. Chris Bergner told reporters, “That has not come up in our investigation as motivation at this time, no.”
Sheriff McDonnell added: “We wouldn’t discuss motive at this point [in the investigation]. Too early.”
Eight children have since been removed from the residence — where Leiva lived off-and-on with Anthony’s mother — and are currently in DCFS custody and awaiting placement, McDonnell said.
He dismissed as “gross overstatements” earlier reports that Anthony’s body was covered with cigarette burns. “Our detectives did not see burns like that on the victim’s body,” he said.
Among the calls to DCFS alleging prior abuse at the residence, the first in 2013 reported sexual abuse by a grandparent who did not live with Anthony — then 4 years old — or the other six children then living in the home, according to the Times.
Other allegations included sexual, emotional and physical abuse as well as neglect, the newspaper reported.
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Anthony’s aunt, Maria Barron, told the Times that living in an allegedly abusive situation and coming out “only reinforces how brave Anthony was.”
Maria said she began alerting DCFS in 2015 to bruises and other injuries she began noticing on the children, which she alleged were caused by Leiva.
She told the department the children alleged Leiva had locked them in small spaces where they had to urinate and defecate on the floor, according to the newspaper.