Anthony Avalos’ mother Heather Barron and her boyfriend Kareem Leiva left a closed hearing in juvenile court Tuesday to decide what to do with their remaining six children. They covered their faces and avoiding reporters’ questions.
“We were expecting some kind of outcome,” said Anthony’s aunt Maria Barron. She made complaints about the boy’s abuse in the past. “We were expecting them to at least get arrested.”
While no one has been charged with a crime in Anthony’s death, police have state he died under suspicious circumstances.
On the afternoon of June 20, Anthony was rushed to a hospital from his apartment in the 1100 block of East Avenue K after L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a 911 call that he had been injured and was not breathing.
Barron and Leiva told first responders he was injured as a result of an accidental fall. However, the Los Angeles Times reports that Avalos died of head trauma and had cigarette burns all over his body at the time of his death. The medical examiner has not yet released a cause of death.
The L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services admitted to CBS2 Monday that it had been aware of abuse allegations at Avalos’ home for several years.
Brandon Nichols, deputy director of DCFS said that Avalos told his mother “he liked boys and girls.” DCFS said it will examine whether homophobia is a factor.
Nichols provided no further details and did not confirm whether this may have contributed to his death.
L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger was set introduced a motion Tuesday directing the “Office of Child Protection, law enforcement and child protective services to review the history of contacts with the family of Anthony Avalos and identify any system breakdowns and overarching issues that may have impacted access to services.”
When they responded to the apartment last week, deputies also found another seven children, ages 11 months to 12 years old, who were either living there or associated with the Avalos’ family, the sheriff’s department said. Those seven children have since been removed from the apartment by DCFS.
DCFS Director Bobby Cagle confirmed to CBS2 that his department received 12 calls regarding the boy’s home from February 2013 to April 2016. Cagle said the department visited the home eight times, taking the boy out of the home to talk to him privately for the last time in 2016.
Avalos was removed from the home in 2013 after DCFS received a call about alleged sexual abuse at the hands of his grandfather. The grandfather was subsequently removed from the home.
From April 2013 to December of 2014, the family was supervised during weekly visits from the agency.
Maria Barron told CBS2 she believes his mother and her boyfriend had been abusing him. She says she reported the couple to the county and his last school three years ago, but nothing was done.
“He told us that he would get locked up and he wasn’t allowed to use the bathroom,” Barron said.
Barron said she noticed bruising on the boy. Anthony and his siblings also allegedly told her that were being abused and forced to eat trash.
“I was heartbroken that I didn’t do more for him,” Barron said with a quake in her voice.
“The county is suffering a senseless murder of an innocent child, allegedly at the hands of someone inside the home, while law enforcement, social workers, and family preservation workers all interacted with the family,” Barger said in a statement Monday. “We need to identify how our previous efforts to enhance and expand services and integrate county partners have succeeded, and determine where there are continual gaps and barriers. Through this assessment, we will also take a closer look at the quality and availability of services provided in the Antelope Valley, in particular.”
“I think as a society, we have to sit back and question what in the heck is going on,” Barger said at Monday’s supervisor meeting. “You had family members, you had law enforcement come in contact, and yet Anthony is now in the morgue.”
“I will reserve judgment, but all I can say is it’s amazing to me how, after the fact, everyone points fingers and said, ‘I warned, I did this, I did that,'” the District 5 supervisor told CBS2. “I can tell you, as an aunt, if I saw something taking place, you would have to pull me off.”
L.A. Sheriff’s Jim McDonnell provided CBS2 with a statement, which reads, in part, “As an investigation continues, investigators are currently interviewing all parties involved in the case and examining all previous contact that law enforcement has had.”