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Mother Charged With Murder of Boy Who Came Out as Gay

Heather Barron and Anthony Avalos
Heather Barron and Anthony Avalos

The mother of Anthony Avalos is arrested, two days after her boyfriend was.

The mother of Anthony Avalos, a 10-year-old who reportedly came out as gay shortly before he died, was charged today with his murder.

The arrest of Heather Barron, 28, of Lancaster, Calif., came two days after her boyfriend, Kareem Leiva, was taken into custody. Barron is charged with murder, child abuse resulting in death, and torture, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Nicole Nishida told the Los Angeles Times. Leiva is charged with murder, torture, and assault on a child causing death, the Times reports.

Avalos, who had recently told a social worker he "liked boys," was unconscious and not breathing when paramedics were called to the family's apartment June 20. He had obviously suffered severe injuries, but Barron said they were the result of a fall. He died the next day.

The Department of Children and Family Services had received numerous reports about abuse of Avalos and his siblings. "Callers, who included family members, school administrators, a teacher and a counselor, said that Anthony and his six siblings had been denied food and water, beaten, sexually abused, dangled upside-down from a staircase, forced to crouch for hours, locked in small spaces with no access to the bathroom, and forced to eat from the trash," the Times reports.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has called for an investigation into the handling of Avalos's case by DCFS and law enforcement. The other children -- an earlier report gave the number as eight -- have now been removed from the home and are in DCFS custody.

Police have declined to say whether homophobia was a motive in the child's death. Family members have said Leiva was uncomfortable with gay men, and caseworkers have said he was a member of the MS-13 gang, which is known to be homophobic.

If convicted, Barron faces 22 years to life in prison, and Leiva faces 32 years to life.

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