An official for the Los Angeles County said Monday that authorities are not investigating whether homophobia played a role in the death of Anthony Avalos, a 10-year-old Lancaster boy.
According to Brandon Nichols, deputy director of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, Anthony Avalos came out as gay in recent weeks. Nichols stated that Avalos “said he liked boys” but declined to provide more details, including whom the boy told and when, during Nichols’ interview with The Los Angeles Times.
Avalos was found mortally wounded at his home last week with severe head injuries.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies responded to a 911 call from his mother about 12:15 p.m. last Wednesday, June 20, and found the boy unresponsive inside his family’s apartment, The Times reported. Authorities said they were told the boy had “suffered injuries from a fall.” Avalos died at a hospital Thursday morning, June 21. Meanwhile, County officials removed seven other children from the home.
On June 27, Kareem Leiva, boyfriend of Avalos’ mother, Heather Barron was arrested on suspicion of murder. Social workers had previously recorded Leiva as a gang member, according to The Times.
A spokesperson for The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department declined to comment Tuesday to The Los Angeles Blade, citing that the investigation into the boy’s death is ongoing.
The LA Times reported Sunday, June 24, that sources told the paper that Barron and Leiva were the subject of at least 16 calls since 2013 from school administrators, a teacher, a counselor, family members and others to DCFS and police alleging child abuse. At least 13 of those calls were received by DCFS and specifically mentioned Anthony Avalos as the alleged victim, Nichols confirmed. He added that the criminal investigation into those allegations of abuse is ongoing.
Avalos’ aunt, Maria Barron, said it would have taken great courage for the boy to announce he was gay in the home, under those circumstances. It “only reinforces how brave Anthony was,” she said. The aunt also said she began alerting DCFS in 2015, when she noticed bruises and other injuries that the children told her were caused by Leiva. She said the children reported Leiva locking them in small spaces where they had to urinate and defecate on the floor. Leiva was convicted in 2010 of domestic abuse.
The abuse and suspicious death of Anthony Avolos is eerily similar to the tragic abuse death of Gabriel Fernadez, whose mother was given a sentence of life and prison while her boyfriend received the death penalty for the boy’s murder. The abuse was so bad, LA County Supervisors appointed a child protection czar on June 10, 2014, one year after the spate of calls about Anthony Avolos started.
Reporting by The Los Angeles Times, the staff of the LA Blade, & wire service reports