In the non-jury trial against Heather Barron and her boyfriend Kareem Leiva, who are facing charges in the murder of Barron’s 10-year-old son Anthony Avalos, the defendant’s siblings testified against her in court. Barron and Leiva are standing trial for the 2018 killing of Barron’s son.

The couple tortured Avalos for days before he died at the family home, where he lived with his parents and multiple siblings. Although Barron and Leiva beat Avalos for years before his death, the extreme punishment that left him with head trauma and internal bleeding stemmed from him coming out as bisexual.

Barron and Leiva’s trial continues this week as more family members will take the stand to testify against them. The parents were initially arrested in 2018, following Avalos’ death, and awaited trial for three years before it started last Wednesday.

The prosecution initially sought to sentence both parents to death before deciding against it in May 2021. Regardless, both parents will serve life in prison without parole if convicted of all charges.

Avalos faced beatings, starvation, and torture

David Barron and Crystal Diuguid addressed the court, saying they already warned Heather against abusing her child in the same way they were as children. Both David and Crystal confirmed they reached out to the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) on multiple occasions.

Between the ages of 4 and 10, he and his siblings endured extreme levels of abuse. Although the parents inflicted much of that abuse, the children were sometimes forced to participate. According to NBC News, Avalos and some of his siblings faced regular beatings, starvation, and whippings.

Their parents locked them up on a regular basis and even forced them to fight each other for their amusement. In the five or six days leading up to Avalos’ death, his parents tortured him while forcing his siblings to watch them torture him and participate themselves.

A statement from Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami alleges Avalos’ parents sprayed him in the face with hot sauce, hung him upside down before dropping him on his head, and forced him to kneel on rice for hours at a time.

The years leading up to Avalos’ death were full of red flags

David told DCFS Anthony would be dead within five years if they released him into Heather’s custody. DCFS released Avalos in 2015 after taking him from the family home in 2013. Allegations of sexual abuse at the hands of Avalos’ grandfather led to his removal. Heather and Leiva had supervised visits with Avalos between 2013 and 2015.

Even though DCFS eventually removed Avalos’ grandfather from the home — which housed an additional seven children aged 11 months to 12 years old — neither David nor Crystal ever saw the boy again. Three years later, he was dead. DCFS removed the other seven children from the home, as well.

Now, with charges of both murder and torture against them, Heather and Leiva are facing life in prison. If convicted of all charges, there will be no option of parole. Authorities arrested Heather and Leiva following an initial police interview with Leiva following Avalos’ death. Initially, the couple told police Avalos suffered a fall that killed him.

Homophobia was most likely a factor in Avalos’ death

On the week of June 21, 2018, Heather and Leiva brutally beat, starved, and tortured 10-year-old Avalos after he revealed to them he “liked boys and girls,” according to DCFS. The boy’s parents had reportedly been beating Avalos for years before his death.

According to a DCFS report, Avalos confided in his parents shortly before his death. He told them he thought he was bisexual. Multiple relatives corroborated this theory, noting how Leiva called Avalos a faggot multiple times in front of other family members. Leiva also admitted he felt uncomfortable around gay people.

The 10-year-old boy slipped through the cracks

L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger is investigating how Avalos died in his home. There were multiple reports of abuse from various family members.

She is directing the “Office of Child Protection, law enforcement and child protective services to review the history of contacts with the family of Anthony Avalos and identify any system breakdowns and overarching issues that may have impacted access to services.”

In a statement released earlier this week, Barger said, “The county is suffering a senseless murder of an innocent child, allegedly at the hands of someone inside the home, while law enforcement, social workers, and family preservation workers all interacted with the family.”

She continued, “We need to identify how our previous efforts to enhance and expand services and integrate county partners have succeeded, and determine where there are continual gaps and barriers. Through this assessment, we will also take a closer look at the quality and availability of services provided in the Antelope Valley, in particular.”

The trial continues this week, with more family members set to testify against Heather Barron and Kareem Leiva.