The trial for the caretakers of a 10-year-old California boy who authorities say was tortured and murdered in 2018 has been set.
Anthony Avalos’s mother Heather Barron and her boyfriend Kareem Leiva, will will stand trial beginning Sept. 26, Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami confirmed to Oxygen.com on Friday. Both will face a single trial at the same time with two juries, one for each defendant.
Both Barron and Leiva face charges including murder with malice, as well as torture, according to an indictment obtained by Oxygen.com. In the same indictment, the couple was additionally charged with two counts of child abuse related to two other children in their care.
While the case began as a death penalty case, both suspects now face life without parole if convicted.
Barron had called 911 on June 20, 2018, to claim Avalos had fallen, KTLA reported. However, he had cuts and bruises all over his body, as well as a traumatic brain injury, authorities say. He died the next day.
Prosecutors allege that Barron and Leiva subjected Anthony to a series of torturous acts over multiple days, including beating him with a belt, dropping him on his head repeatedly, burning him with cigarettes, and pouring hot sauce all over his face and mouth. Barron and Leiva also allegedly starved the boy and performed sex acts in front of him.
Earlier this year, Los Angeles County counselor Barbara Dixon was put on probation for failing to report the suspected abuse of Avalos and Gabriel Fernandez in connection with their deaths. The two cases bear eerie similarities. Fernandez, age 8, died in 2013 in the same area after enduring months of abuse by his mother, Pearl Fernandez, and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre. During the time Fernandez’s guardians had custody of him, they put out cigarettes on him, shot him in the face with a BB gun, made him eat cat litter and feces, and forced him to sleep in a locked cabinet, often while gagged and bound. Pearl is now serving life without parole while Aguirre is on death row. Both cases led to criticism of L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services, as complaints of abuse were made in both cases.