Who Is Heather Barron? Mother Convicted of Torture-Murder of 10-Year-Old Son

  • Heather Barron and Kareem Leiva were found guilty of torturing and murdering Barron's 10-year-old son, Anthony Avalos.
  • Both now face sentences of life in prison without the chance of parole.
  • Prosecutors said the boy was routinely beaten, dropped on his head and starved.

A woman and her boyfriend have been found guilty of torturing and murdering her 10-year-old son.

Heather Barron, 33, and Kareem Leiva, 37, were convicted on Tuesday of first-degree murder involving torture in the death of Anthony Avalos.

The pair chose to have their cases heard by a judge not a jury. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Sam Ohta issued the verdicts after six days of reviewing evidence.

They were also convicted of abusing Anthony and two half-siblings at the home in Lancaster, California.

Prosecutors alleged that Barron had abused Anthony and his siblings for years, but the situation escalated after she began dating Leiva, the Los Angeles Times reported.

They said Leiva regularly beat the children with belts, poured hot sauce in their mouths and made them fight each other, with the loser subjected to further punishment.

Anthony was repeatedly dropped on his head, smashed into the floor or furniture, burned with cigarettes, and either starved or force-fed, they said. The children were also made to kneel on exposed floors, nails or uncooked rice for long periods or squat until they fell over.

Barron also inverted the locks on bathroom doors in the home so the children could be trapped inside with no access to food or water, prosecutors alleged.

Los Angeles County deputies arrived at the home in the 1100 block of East Avenue K on June 20, 2018, after Barron had called 911. They found Anthony without a pulse.

The officers were told that the boy had been injured in a fall. He was taken to a hospital, where he died the following day.

Anthony was "so malnourished and dehydrated that his veins were collapsed," Deputy District Attorney Saeed Teymouri said during his opening statement.

The boy's siblings testified about the abuse at the trial, with one describing how Leiva had repeatedly slammed Anthony on his head the day before he died.

His sister was asked what Barron did when Anthony was laying on the carpet unable to move. "Nothing," she said.

Anthony's brother told the court that Leiva took his own children and fled when he realized Barron was calling the police.

After his arrest, Leiva admitted that he had abused the children but denied delivering the blows that killed Anthony.

Barron's defense attorney had argued that she was a victim of domestic violence and couldn't stop Leiva hurting the children.

The pair now face sentences of life in prison without the chance of parole. Sentencing is scheduled for April 25.

Barron and Leiva "tortured the boy every day for two weeks leading up to his death," Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement after the verdicts.

"The brutality that was meted out on this young child was unimaginable. No child should endure this kind of violence and torture at the hands of the people who are supposed to love and protect him from harm."

Last October Los Angeles County approved a $32 million settlement for Anthony's father and siblings.

The family had filed a lawsuit alleging that the county's Department of Children and Family Services had disregarded more than a dozen reports of abuse from family members, teachers, counselors and police.

Family services never tried to remove the children from Barron's home and no employees have been disciplined in connection with the case, the Times reported.

A spokesperson for the county Department of Children and Family Services declined to comment on whether any employees had been disciplined.

"DCFS takes a continuous quality improvement approach to evaluate policies and practices that may be enhanced to strengthen our system and, similarly, assess the need for corrective actions with individual employees," the spokesperson told Newsweek.

The spokesperson added that the department had implemented a number of changes in recent years, including hiring thousands more social workers in an effort to reduce caseloads.

The department also issued a statement after Tuesday's verdict, saying: "Neither a verdict nor a civil settlement can ease the anguish of losing 10-year-old Anthony Avalos. It is our profound hope that the resolution of the case against Heather Barron and Kareem Leiva bring peace and closure to his family and friends."

The statement added that Anthony's death "remains a source of unresolved grief and deep reflection" for those in the child welfare community.

"Anthony's memory and that of other children lost to abuse serve to reinforce our commitment to the well-being of families, and fortify our resolve to identify and address systemic challenges," it said.

Update 03/09/23, 4:10 a.m. ET: This article has been updated with comments and a statement from the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.

Courtroom stock photo
Stock photo of a courtroom. Heather Barron and Kareem Leiva chose to have their case heard by a judge rather than a jury. iStock