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10-Year-Old Boy Likely Beaten to Death Recently Came Out as Gay

Anthony Avalos

Covered in cigarette burns, Anthony Avalos was found dead of a head injury last week in southern California.

A 10-year-old boy who likely died as the result of child abuse recently announced he "liked boys," according to a report in the Los Angeles Times that quoted the deputy director of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.

Anthony Avalos was found dead in his Lancaster, Calif., home last week, the result of head injuries that his mother claimed came from a fall. Avalos was covered in cigarette burns and he and his siblings had been repeatedly abused, according to teachers, counselors, and family members. At least 16 calls were made to the Department of Children and Family Services regarding Avalos and his siblings, according to the Times.

Investigators are now looking into whether homophobia played a role in Avalos's death. Brandon Nichols, deputy director of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, told the Times that Avalos recently announced he "liked boys," but declined to elaborate further.

Avalos's aunt, Maria Barron, praised her nephew's courage. Coming out only "only reinforces how brave Anthony was," Barron told the Times.

Barron repeatedly warned officials about Avalos's mother, Heather Barron, and her boyfriend, Kareem Leiva; Leiva was convicted of domestic abuse in 2010. Barron described horrific treatment of Avalos and his siblings, including beatings, starvations, sexual abuse, being locked in small spaces, and denial of water.

It's not clear why Avalos was allowed to remain under the care of Barron and Leiva. DCFS director Bobby Cagle said it was "premature" to describe Avalos's torture and death as a failure of the welfare system.

It was only five years ago that another boy, 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez, was killed by his mother and her boyfriend in nearby Palmdale, Calif. Evidence pointed to the fact that the boyfriend hated the child because he thought he was gay.

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