The half-siblings of a 10-year-old boy who died in 2018 testified Wednesday that that they had been compelled to bear punishment, together with kneeling on raw rice, wrestling one another and watching one another be disciplined of their Lancaster residence, and that they noticed their mom’s boyfriend repeatedly dropping their half-brother on the bed room flooring shortly earlier than his loss of life.
The testimony of Anthony Avalos’ half-sister, recognized in courtroom solely as Future O., and his half-brother, Rafael O., got here in the course of the non-jury trial of their mom, Heather Maxine Barron, and her live-in boyfriend, Kareem Ernesto Leiva.
Barron and Leiva are charged with one rely every of homicide and torture involving Anthony’s June 2018 loss of life, together with two counts of kid abuse involving Future and Rafael.
The homicide rely contains the particular circumstance allegation of homicide involving the infliction of torture. Over the objection of Deputy District Lawyer Jonathan Hatami, the Los Angeles County District Lawyer’s Workplace dropped its bid for the loss of life penalty towards the 2 after the election of District Lawyer George Gascón, who issued a directive that “a sentence of loss of life is rarely an acceptable decision in any case.”
Barron, 33, and Leiva, 37, now face a most of life in jail with out the potential for parole if they’re convicted as charged.
Future O., now 13 years previous, testified that Anthony had been compelled to bear a sequence of punishments the evening earlier than her mom known as 911 to report that he was not respiratory, together with Leiva selecting him up and dropping
him “in all probability 10 (instances) or slightly extra.”
“I feel it was giving him mind injury,” she mentioned, noting that the boy was “saying bizarre issues.”
“The place was mommy?” the prosecutor requested.
“She was watching,” the seventh-grader testified.
She mentioned her mom subsequently directed her and Rafael to not say something to the police after they had been known as to the home the subsequent day.
Rafael, who’s now 12, mentioned he noticed Anthony being dropped by Leiva about 20 instances the evening earlier than his mom known as 911 to report that his half-brother wasn’t respiratory. He mentioned his mom “did not attempt to shield Anthony.”
He acknowledged that he did not initially inform police about what had occurred as a result of he was making an attempt to guard his mom, however testified that he did not wish to cowl it up any longer “now that I see what she did.”
The sixth-grader — who now lives along with his sister, their aunt and their grandmother — testified that his mom and her boyfriend made the youngsters kneel on rice despite the fact that it harm and so they cried.
“Did your knees get sore?” the prosecutor requested.
“Sure,” he testified.
“Did they ever bleed?” the prosecutor requested, with the boy responding affirmatively and saying that the youngsters had been generally pushed into the rice.
He mentioned that punishment may generally final hours — and even all day.
The boy mentioned issues modified after Leiva moved into their residence and acknowledged that his mom was not within the room when Leiva directed the 2 boys to battle one another as a disciplinary measure. He mentioned he remembered
pondering that Anthony’s loss of life was Leiva’s fault.
He testified that he would not love his mom as a lot as he used to, explaining that his emotions have modified since he started to “notice all of the unhealthy issues she did to me.”
Future — who wiped away tears no less than one level throughout her testimony as her mom sat seemingly impassive throughout the courtroom — mentioned she had thought-about telling a instructor in regards to the alleged abuse. However she testified that her mom had directed her, “What occurs in the home stays in the home.”
When requested if she remembered any instances that Anthony had thrown himself on the bottom — as Barron repeatedly advised police throughout two prolonged interviews, the woman responded, “No, he would by no means do this.”
She mentioned Leiva “compelled” the opposite siblings to look at at any time when any of the youngsters had been being punished.
The woman testified that the self-discipline handed down included kneeling in raw rice for a “very long time,” holding faculty books and weights above their heads, squatting towards the wall, being advised to wrestle one another and being compelled to eat peanut butter sandwiches with scorching sauce or to drink scorching sauce in the event that they did not end consuming inside a sure period of time.
She mentioned she additionally recalled Anthony being hit with a vacuum wire that she believed was wielded by her mom, and mentioned that the boys could be locked of their bed room and that they might have their faces pushed into their urine after they weren’t allowed to go away their room.
The teenager mentioned she by no means questioned her mom in regards to the punishment that was being handed down, saying that it was “in all probability as a result of I used to be afraid.”
She mentioned she nonetheless loves her mother, however feels that she’s understanding much more as she will get older.
“Are you mad at her?” the prosecutor mentioned.
“Sure,” the woman responded.
“Do you miss Anthony?” the prosecutor requested.
“Sure,” the 13-year-old woman responded.
“Does it make you unhappy?” Hatami requested.
“Sure,” the seventh-grader mentioned.
In interviews with Los Angeles County sheriff’s detectives after Anthony was taken first to Antelope Valley Hospital after which to UCLA Mattel Youngsters’s Hospital, Barron maintained that she “did not do nothing.”
“He has been throwing himself. He has. I promise you. He has been throwing himself round,” Barron advised investigators, sustaining that the boy had been “appearing up and he threw himself (on the ground) as a result of he did not need
“I do know you guys are coming at me like, like I am Gabriel’s mother,” she mentioned, in an obvious reference to the case towards Pearl Fernandez, who was convicted alongside together with her boyfriend of murdering her 8-year-old son. “And it was nothing like that. I promise I didn’t harm my son. I didn’t let no one harm my son. I promise you to God. You may give me a lie detector check. I didn’t do that.”
In a second interview with detectives, Barron acknowledged that she hadn’t initially advised them that Leiva had been on the home as a result of she was “scared” and did not wish to go to jail.
She maintained that Leiva “did not contact Anthony” and mentioned that “nobody did something to him,” however mentioned Leiva wasn’t speculated to be at her house as a result of it’s a low-income facility and had been threatened by the managers that she could be kicked out if anyone stored coming over.
When requested by Deputy District Lawyer Saeed Teymouri about Barron showing to be “hysterical” and “stuttering” at instances in the course of the audiotaped interviews with detectives, sheriff’s Sgt. Robert Wilkinson mentioned, “It appeared that she was making an attempt, for my part, to pretend an emotion. I by no means noticed any tears.”
A number of first-responders testified Tuesday that the lady was not crying or hysterical as they tried to revive her son.
Sheriff’s Deputy Brandon Vanarsdale testified that emergency personnel who had been treating the boy gave the impression to be extra upset than his mom was.
In his opening assertion of the trial, Teymouri advised the decide that Barron and Leiva tortured and abused Anthony for 2 weeks earlier than his loss of life, whereas an legal professional for Leiva countered that his shopper needs to be acquitted of homicide.
“Anthony Avalos graduated the fourth grade on June seventh, 2018, and for 2 consecutive weeks he was abused and tortured each single day culminating to when the primary responders discovered his lifeless physique on June twentieth,” Teymouri mentioned.
The boy died early the subsequent morning.
Teymouri advised the decide that there had been a number of contacts with the county’s Division of Youngsters and Household Providers courting again to 2014.
“She’s been torturing her youngsters for a protracted time period, and as soon as defendant Leiva got here into the image it turned lethal,” he mentioned.
The prosecutor mentioned the boy was “already mind lifeless” and had been mendacity on the ground within the household’s townhouse “for no less than a day, probably extra” when Barron known as 911 to hunt help for the boy, and that the 2 “concocted a narrative that Anthony Avalos had injured himself.”
The boy had “new and previous accidents — actually from head to toe,” the deputy district legal professional mentioned, exhibiting a photograph of the boy whereas he was alive after which in a video from the hospital during which a few of his accidents had been depicted.
Leiva subsequently acknowledged that he had the boy kneel on raw rice and admitted that he had rendered him unconscious for about 5 minutes simply days earlier, in line with the prosecutor.
Leiva’s legal professional countered that the proof would show that there’s “cheap doubt” involving the homicide cost towards his shopper.
Dan Chambers mentioned the 2 main points will likely be “an absence of intent to kill” and the problems of “causation.”
The protection lawyer questioned the accounts of the boy’s half-siblings, whose testimony he mentioned has modified over time.
Chambers advised the decide that lots of the statements by the youngsters are “inconsistent,” saying that their preliminary statements “confirmed an absence of any actions on behalf of Mr. Leiva with respect to the therapy of Anthony” and that “Mr. Leiva’s conduct allegedly grew worse” as the youngsters underwent additional questioning.
“These inconsistencies within the proof will likely be obvious and as soon as we show that it’ll present that what the youngsters declare they are saying Mr. Leiva doing is inconsistent with the medical proof,” the protection legal professional mentioned.
“This case is a case of extreme abuse, however as to Mr. Leiva, it isn’t a homicide,” the protection lawyer advised the decide.
Barron’s attorneys reserved their proper to make a gap assertion when the protection begins its portion of the case.
Barron and Leiva had been charged in June 2018 with the boy’s killing and had been subsequently indicted by a Los Angeles County grand jury in October 2018. They continue to be jailed with out bail.
Final October, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors formally permitted a $32 million settlement of a lawsuit filed by the boy’s relations — two of whom testified final week that they notified the county’s Division of Youngsters and Household Providers in regards to the alleged abuse. The lawsuit contended that a number of social staff did not correctly reply to experiences of abuse of Anthony and his siblings.
The lawsuit cited different high-profile deaths of kids who had been additionally being monitored by the DCFS — 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez and 4-year-old Noah Cuatro, each of Palmdale — to allege “systemic failures” within the company.