A Lancaster woman charged along with her boyfriend with the torture and murder of her 10-year-old son inflicted some of the same type of punishment on her children that had been used against her by her mother and stepfather years earlier, her brother and sister testified on Jan. 26.
David Barron and Crystal Diuguid told Superior Court Judge Sam Ohta — who is hearing the non-jury trial of Heather Maxine Barron and Kareem Ernesto Leiva — that they warned their sister against inflicting the same kind of punishment they had faced as children. The pair testified that they subsequently repeatedly notified the county Department of Children and Family Services about the alleged abuse of Anthony Avalos and three of his half- siblings.
Heather Barron, 33, and Leiva, 37, are charged with one count each of murder and torture involving Anthony’s June 2018 death, along with two counts of child abuse involving two of the boy’s half-siblings. The murder count includes the special circumstance allegation of murder involving the infliction of torture.
Over the objection of Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office dropped its bid for the death penalty against the two after the 2018 election of District Attorney George Gascón, who issued a directive that “a sentence of death is never an appropriate resolution in any case.” The two could now face a maximum of life in prison without the possibility of parole if they are convicted as charged.
“Most of the time she would say the kids did it to each other or themselves,” David Barron testified on Thursday, Jan. 26, adding that he didn’t think children who were that young would be making up their accounts of the alleged abuse.
David Barron said he saw Heather Barron hit three of her children, including Anthony, with her hand, a wire hanger and a wooden spoon, and another of her children with her hand alone.
The boy’s aunt, Anthony’s aunt, Crystal Diuguid, said she also provided information to a mandated reporter who notified DCFS that there were “four victims” of abuse by Heather Barron and that the one receiving the “worst treatment” was Anthony, who was 5 years old at the time.
Diuguid told the judge that she and her sister were forced as young children to kneel on uncooked rice — something the prosecution contends that Anthony was also forced to do.