For the second time in two months, an arraignment was postponed Friday for a Lancaster mother and her boyfriend who are charged with murder and torture in the death of 10-year-old Anthony Avalos.
Heather Maxine Barron, 28, and Kareem Ernesto Leiva, 32, appeared briefly in the Antelope Valley branch of Los Angeles Superior Court before their arraignments were continued till Oct. 3.
They made their first court appearance in early July, where they also did not enter a plea on the charges.
In addition to murder and torture, Barron has also been charged with child abuse; Leiva, meanwhile, faces a count of assault on a child causing death, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
“We categorically deny these charges,” defense attorney Dan Carr told KTLA outside the courthouse, adding later that “We’ll enter the not guilty plea” at the court date in October.
If convicted as charged, Barron faces a maximum possible sentence of 22 years to life in prison, while Leiva faces up 32 years to life, prosecutors said.
The defendants are each being held on $2 million.
Barron and Leiva are accused of torturing Anthony in the days leading up to his death, authorities said.
Deputies found the child unresponsive in the couple’s Lancaster apartment on June 20, after Barron called 911 to report her son had suffered a fall, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
He died the following morning.
Evidence uncovered after his death revealed that the Anthony had been a “victim of physical abuse,” and showed “signs of being severely beaten” and malnourished, according to a statement from the director of L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services.
Brian Claypool, an attorney for the boy’s father and other relatives, said documents from DCFS indicated that social workers found 15 cases of substantiated instances of child abuse and at least two substantiated claims of sexual abuse.
They made about 18 visits to child’s home and noted 88 investigation into various abuse allegations, the lawyer added.
“This is not a case of negligence. This is not a case of ‘the social workers are overworked.’ This is a case of flat out, deliberate indifference toward the life of Anthony Avalos,” Claypool said at news conference in mid-July.
The family is seeking answers and has called for a criminal investigation into the social workers. DCFS has said it is cooperating with investigators as they review Anthony’s case.
Officials have removed at least seven other children between the ages of 11 months and 12 years from the Lancaster home since Anthony’s death; family members said the kids were also Barron’s children.