Mother, Boyfriend Indicted on Capital Murder Charges in Torture Death of 10-Year-Old Lancaster Boy: DA

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A mother and her boyfriend have been indicted on capital murder charges in connection with the torture death of 10-year-old Anthony Avalos, authorities announced Wednesday.

The couple, Heather Barron and Kareem Leiva, were also charged by a Los Angeles County grand jury with abusing two other children.

The pair were indicted on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, Barron and Leiva pleaded not guilty to murder with a special circumstance allegation of intentional murder with infliction of torture on the victim.

The pair had pleaded not guilty earlier this month to charges of murder and torture. The grand jury indictment, which was unsealed Wednesday, replaces that previous criminal case, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said.

The child abuse victims are identified in the four-count indictment as Rafael O. and Destiny O., who were both allegedly victimized by the couple between April 2014 and June 2018.

The defendants are eligible for the death penalty, though the DA's office will later decide whether to seek life in prison without the possibility of parole, or death.

Barron called 911 on June 20 claiming her son had fallen in their Lancaster apartment in the 1100 block of East Avenue K. Responding officers discovered Anthony unresponsive and had him taken to the hospital, where he died the next morning.

Prosecutors allege that the defendants tortured Avalos for at least five days leading up to his death.

The defendants allegedly poured hot sauce on Anthony's face and mouth, hit him with a cord and belt, repeatedly held him upside-down before dropping him on his head, and asked other children in the residence to hurt him, according to court documents released in July. They're also accused of alternating between starving and force-feeding the boy and throwing him into furniture.

A pretrial hearing for the pair is set for Dec. 3.

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