LANCASTER (CBSLA) — Protesters gathered Monday in Lancaster, Palmdale and downtown Los Angeles to call out what they said was lack of action on the part of the L.A. Dept. of Children and Family Services in the separate cases of two boys who allegedly died at the hands of their parents following multiple calls and visits from the agency.
Outside the Lancaster courtroom where the mother of 10-year-old Anthony Avalos appeared, her sister said jail is where Heather Maxine Barron and her boyfriend Kareem Ernesto Leiva belong.
“I don’t want them out, that’s where they’re supposed to stay,” said Anthony’s aunt Maria Barron. She said she called authorities in 2015 after she saw bruising on the boy, one of many incidents DCFS claimed were reported to police and the agency.
Anthony died on June 21, the morning after he was taken to the hospital from his Lancaster home unconscious with a head injury. Heather Barron claimed Anthony suffered the injury as the result of a fall, but the boy’s death was considered suspicious from the start.
CBS2 confirmed Anthony had bruises and laceration all over his body when he died.
It was soon revealed DCFS had received 13 calls about suspected abuse at Anthony’s home and had visited his home eight times during the last few years, which has led many to criticize the department over their inaction in his case and at least one other.
The boy was taken out of the home in 2013 after the agency received a report Anthony was being sexually abused by his grandfather.
Both Barron and Leiva were charged with murder and torture last week. Leiva faces an additional charge of assault on a child causing death.
Demonstrators outside the Palmdale office of DCFS held up signs reading “Justice 4 Anthony” Monday, demanding changes in the department in the wake of Anthony’s death and the death of Gabriel Fernandez.
Nikki Martinez was not Anthony’s teacher, but she told CBS2 News she has reported at least five cases of abuse to DCFS and claims the agency has not handled any of them properly.
“They trust us to help them as adults, and we’re doing the best we can by reporting it,” said Martinez. “We’re doing our job, and the people above us, those people, aren’t doing their job.”
Gabriel’s loved ones saw this moment as a chance to speak up outside DCFS offices in Downtown L.A. for the boy also killed after repeated abuse.
“It’s hard to relive this, and I pray just reliving Anthony’s [death], that we don’t have to relive a third child’s because it is really, really sad,” Gabriel’s aunt Olivia Rubio told CBS2.
Earlier this year, Gabriel’s mother Pearl Sinthia Fernandez pleaded guilty to murder and torture in the death of her son, in exchange for life in prison without the possibility of parole.
During the trial, prosecutors revealed gruesome details of the boy’s treatment, which included being beaten, shot with a BB gun, forced to eat cat feces and forced to sleep bound and gagged in a small cabinet.
A jury found Pearl’s boyfriend Isauro Aguirre guilty of murder and torture, and he was sentenced to death last month.
Two social workers in the case and two supervisors were criminally charged in the case.
In both cases, the parents allegedly believed the boys were gay.
Barron and Leiva are being held on $2 million bail each.