Relatives of a 10-year-old Lancaster boy who died after allegedly being subjected to extensive torture by his mother and her boyfriend moved a step closer this week to having their day in court when a judge said she will not grant defense requests to delay the upcoming start of trial of the case.
During a final status conference on Tuesday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michelle Williams Court said lawyers for Los Angeles County and Pasadena-based Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services have had years to prepare for the trial after the lawsuit by family members of the boy, Anthony Avalos, was filed in July 2019.
The lawsuit accuses the county and multiple social workers of failing to properly respond to reports of abuses of Anthony and his half-siblings.
The trial is currently set to start Monday, but the judge said she is currently in trial on another case and the beginning of the Avalos trial is dependent upon when the other ongoing trial ends.
Hathaway-Sycamores attorney Thomas Beach told the judge that the case was not ready for trial because not all depositions are finished and a review of the criminal case file is not complete. Beach blamed the plaintiffs’ attorneys for not cooperating in scheduling the depositions.
In addition, attorney David J. Weiss, on behalf of Los Angeles County, said the plaintiffs’ attorneys have filed an amended complaint that must be pursued.
The suit alleges Hathaway-Sycamores assigned employee Barbara Dixon to work with the family even though she had allegedly not reported abuse in the case of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez of Palmdale, who, like Anthony, was killed while in the care of his mother and her boyfriend.
A grand jury indicted Heather Maxine Barron, 32, and Kareem Ernesto Leiva, 36, in October 2018 on charges that they murdered the boy and abused two other children in the household. The District Attorney’s Office in May 2021 reversed course and announced it would no longer seek the death penalty against the pair, who now face a possible maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.