The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday that it will seek the death penalty against a mother and her boyfriend who are charged in the torture killing of 10-year-old Anthony Avalos.
The couple, Heather Barron and Kareem Leiva, were indicted by a grand jury on capital murder charges last October.
They have pleaded not guilty to murder with a special circumstance with a special circumstance allegation of intentional murder with infliction of torture on the victim.
Had prosecutors not sought the death penalty, the couple would have faced life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted as charged.
The victim’s uncle lauded the decision to seek capital punishment.
“I know the death penalty won’t bring Anthony back, but this is one of the worst kind of crimes you could commit, so deserves the worst kind of punishment,” said David Barron, the victim’s uncle.
Heather Barron and Leiva are accused of killing Anthony, who was discovered unresponsive at the family’s Lancaster apartment in the 100 block of East Avenue K on June 20, 2018. He died the next morning.
Barron called 911 to report that the little boy had fallen, but investigators uncovered evidence of physical abuse, authorities said.
Anthony was tortured for at least five days prior to his death, according to prosecutors.
Court documents allege the defendants poured hot sauce on the child’s face and mouth, repeatedly beat him with a cord and belt, held him upside-down before dropping him on his head multiple times, and asked the other children in the apartment to hurt him.
The couple is further suspected of starving and force-feeding the boy, as well as throwing him into furniture, according to the documents.
Barron and Leiva have also each been charged with abusing two other children between April 2014 and June 2018, prosecutors said.
Earlier this month, Anthony’s family filed a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services.
The suit alleges there were at least 16 reports over five years to DCFS about the 10-year-old suffering physical and sexual abuse at the home before the boy died.
KTLA’s Kristina Bravo contributed to this story.