LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – The family of a 10–year-old Lancaster boy who died in June of 2018 after being abused and tortured for years filed a $50 million lawsuit Thursday against the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), alleging the agency failed to prevent his death.
Anthony Avalos died on June 21, 2018, after being rushed to a hospital injured and not breathing. Investigators later determined that he had been tortured, abused and beaten over a period of several years by his mother, Heather Barron, and her boyfriend, Kareem Leiva.
Both have been charged with murder and are awaiting trial.
At the time of his death, DCFS admitted to CBS2 that it had been aware of abuse allegations at Avalos’ home for several years, where up to seven children were living. DCFS Director Bobby Cagle said his department had 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.
“L.A. County DCFS has ignored murder after murder after murder of children in L.A. County, and it’s gonna take today, a $50 million lawsuit to get their attention to bring about the necessary change within the DCFS system,” family attorney Brian Claypool said in a news conference outside DCFS headquarters Thursday. “This lawsuit today which we have filed will create transparency within an agency that acts more like the Central Intelligence Agency.”
The exact details of the lawsuit were not immediately confirmed.
Last month, 4-year-old Noah Cuatro of Palmdale died under suspicious circumstances. According to a report in the L.A. Times, DCFS had been ordered by a court back in May to remove the boy from his parents’ custody over concerns of abuse, but he never was.
In 2013, 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez of Palmdale died after years of torture and abuse at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend, who were both later convicted of murder in his death. DCFS had determined nothing was wrong despite numerous contacts with the family and a call from his first-grade teacher.
In 2017, two former DCFS social workers and supervisors were charged with felony child abuse and falsifying public records in connection with the Fernandez case.