As the trial against Heather Barron and Kareem Leiva continues, witnesses who saw Anthony Avalos in the weeks and months leading to his death continue to share their memories of Avalos, as well as the troubling signs of abuse at the hands of his parents.

More witnesses in the Anthony Avalos case take the stand

The trend is continuing this week as Avalos’ teacher took the stand to share his story from her perspective, including a heartbreaking letter he wrote her just two weeks before he died. In the years leading up to his death, Barron and Leiva allegedly abused Avalos and his siblings using severe and disturbing methods.

Loading the player...

Prior witnesses, including two of Avalos’ siblings — Destiny and Rafael — told horrifying stories of gladiator-style fights, regular beatings, malnourishment, and torture. When he arrived at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital, a pediatrician named Dr. Andranik Madikians confirmed Avalos was “skin and bones.”

However, Avalos’ fourth-grade teacher, Harmony Bell, offered a different perspective. Instead of attesting to his physical state, she shared more about Avalos’ mental state in the weeks leading up to his death.

Bell testified she never noticed any signs of abuse while Avalos was in her classroom. Additionally, she knew Avalos as a child who would always write her notes and draw her pictures. She even described him as “everyone’s best friend.” Despite the abuse he suffered at home, Bell says he was “bubbling, always happy and a joy to be around.”

On the last day of school, Avalos gave his teacher a heartbreaking note

The teacher testified that he seemed excited about summer break. “I assumed he’d have a summer of fun, and that I’d see him in the fifth grade,” she said. During the school year, Bell said he would always bring her graham crackers from the cafeteria and talk with her about the Bible.

On one of his fourth-grade report cards, she wrote: “He keeps a smile on my face all day long. I couldn’t imagine my class without him!” However, his last letter to her now feels like a telling sign of what was to come. Bell read his note aloud while on the stand.

“I just want to stay with you forever, but I can’t,” he wrote. “I just hope you have a good rest of your life because you already know that I’m going to have a good life.” He signed the note, “Love, Anthony Avalos, Your Friend.” Two weeks later, Avalos was dead.

However, his classmate Sofia tells a different story

Bell wasn’t the only person to testify last Wednesday. The court also asked one of Anthony’s former classmates to take the stand. The classmate, 14-year-old Sofia, was in Avalos’ class when the two were just 10 years old in 2018.

Sofia’s perspective on the last school year of Avalos’ life was slightly different than Bell’s, who says she never noticed any concrete signs of abuse. Sofia said Avalos was “always hungry” and consistently asked for extra snacks in school. “One thing I did notice was that he saved enough for not only him but also for his siblings, too,” she said.

Although he rarely had serious injuries while in school, Sofia said she did notice “scratches, redness and like little bruises.” However, she assumed the marks came from normal activities like soccer. She also testified that Avalos told her he could not play with toys at home.

Lastly, she mentioned that Avalos often wore sweaters to school, even when it was warm outside.

Avalos’ vice principal also called DCFS

Although Bell did not notice signs of abuse, Avalos reportedly spoke to his vice principal, Gia Greaux, about what was going on at home. Now a former vice principal at Lincoln Elementary School, Greaux said he told her more about his mother and stepfather’s abuse.

Barron reportedly hit him with a ping-pong paddle on a regular basis. She also locked the kids up in their rooms for hours at a time. However, when they were in the rooms, Barron forced them to sit in the “Captain’s Chair” position. This meant sitting against the wall and holding their arms out with no support.

Similarly, a daycare worker named Mildred Blue called DCFS after two of Avalos’ step-siblings told her their stories. She said they revealed Leiva “made them fight each other” while Barron withheld food.