Defendants face life in prison
By City News Service
A judge was scheduled to hear closing arguments this week in the trial of a Lancaster woman and her boyfriend, who are charged with murder and torture in connection with her 10-year-old son’s death.
Superior Court Judge Sam Ohta is hearing the case of Heather Maxine Barron, 33, and Kareem Ernesto Leiva, 37, as a result of a decision by both sides to waive their right to a jury trial.
Barron and Leiva are charged with one count each of murder and torture involving the June 2018 death of Anthony Avalos, along with two counts of child abuse involving the boy’s half-siblings, identified in court as “Destiny O.” and “Rafael O.”
The murder count includes the special circumstance allegation of murder involving the infliction of torture. Over Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami’s objection, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office dropped its bid for the death penalty against the two after the election of District Attorney George Gascón, who issued a directive that “a sentence of death is never an appropriate resolution in any case.”
Leiva and Barron now face a maximum of life in prison without the possibility of parole if they are convicted as charged.
The boy’s half-siblings testified earlier this month that they had been forced to undergo punishment, including kneeling on uncooked rice, wrestling each other and watching each other be disciplined, and that they saw their mother’s boyfriend dropping Anthony repeatedly on the bedroom floor.
One of Leiva’s daughters, who is now 18, testified that she also saw her father repeatedly dropping Anthony on the floor and that the boy appeared to be dead when she saw him two days later.
During his opening statement, Deputy District Attorney Saeed Teymouri told the judge that Barron and Leiva tortured and abused Anthony for two weeks before his death, while an attorney for Leiva countered that his client should be acquitted of murder.
Teymouri told the judge that there had been multiple contacts with the county’s Department of Children and Family Services dating back to 2014.
“She’s been torturing her kids for a long period of time, and once defendant Leiva came into the picture it turned deadly,” he said.