Death of Anthony Avalos: Mother’s friend Kareem Ernesto Leiva admits to disciplining 10-year-old boy
LOS ANGELES (CNS) — A man charged with his local girlfriend in the death of their 10-year-old son admitted to investigators in an audio interview played in court on Thursday that he had disciplined the boy by hitting him with a belt , hit him and pushed him to the ground in their Lancaster apartment.
Kareem Ernesto Leiva, 37, and Heather Maxine Barron, 33, are each charged with murder and torture in connection with the June 2018 death of Anthony Avalos, along with two counts of child molestation involving two half-siblings of the boy who died before Dish identified only as “Destiny O.” and “Rafael O.”
The number of murders includes the allegation of circumstances surrounding the murder involving the use of torture. Because of the objection of Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Hatami, the Los Angeles County Attorney’s Office dropped its motion for the death penalty against the two following the election of District Attorney George Gascon in 2020, who issued a directive that “a death sentence is never an adequate resolution.” In any case.”
Barron and Leiva now face a maximum of life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted as charged.
During a three-hour interview with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Detectives in June 2018, Leiva said he pushed the boy once and “he just fell.” He said he thought the boy hit his head.
“Okay, do you have any doubt that there’s nobody in the house causing this cerebral hemorrhage?” Sheriff’s Detective Scott Mitchell asked Leiva.
“No, it was nobody but me,” the accused told investigators.
When asked if he believed the discipline, which involved pushing, caused the cerebral hemorrhage, he replied, “Yes.”
“I didn’t do it to hurt him. I did it to get him to behave properly,” he told investigators. “I had no intention of making him pass out…”
Leiva also admitted he would “smack Anthony on the butt” with a belt. He said he also slapped the boy on the cheek for “behaving badly,” but claimed he didn’t do it “as hard as I can.”
“Was there anything you saw or heard that would lead you to believe that any of those bruises were from anyone other than you? The bottom line is that you put those bruises on his body?” the detective asked.
“Yes,” Leiva replied.
When asked if he really knew why “all of this happened,” the defendant replied, “Maybe I need help… And I can’t blame anyone but myself because I’m the one, you know? It’s my fault. Everything is my fault.”
Leiva said the boy and his two half-siblings were also subjected to punishment where they were forced to kneel on uncooked rice.
In her first two interviews with police, Anthony’s mother denied any knowledge of any alleged abuse of her children, but told investigators shortly before her arrest that she was afraid of Leiva – who she said had abused her – and that he was her children punished, according to Sheriff’s Detective Adam Kirste.
The boy’s two half-siblings testified on Wednesday that they saw their mother’s boyfriend repeatedly drop Anthony on the bedroom floor shortly before his death.
Destiny, now 13, testified that the night before her mother called 911 to report that he was not breathing, Anthony had been forced to undergo a variety of punishments, including Leiva lifting him and dropped it “probably 10 (times) or a little more.”
“I think it caused him some brain damage,” she said, noting that the boy “said strange things.”
“Where was Mama?” the prosecutor asked.
“She was watching,” the seventh year testified.
She said her mother then told her and Rafael not to tell the police when they were called to the house the next day.
Rafael, now 12, said he saw Anthony being dropped off by Leiva about 20 times during the night before his mother called 911 to report his half-brother was not breathing. He said his mother “wasn’t trying to protect Anthony.”
He admitted he initially didn’t tell police what happened because he was trying to protect his mother, but said he no longer wanted to cover it up “now that I see what she did”.
On Thursday, another of Anthony’s siblings broke down in tears when asked if he liked living with his mother and her boyfriend.
The 10-year-old boy, identified in court as Angel G., told the judge “they would hit us all the time.”
In interviews with Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Detectives after Anthony was taken first to Antelope Valley Hospital and then to UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital, Barron claimed that she “did nothing”.
“He threw himself. He has. I promise you … He threw himself around,” Barron told investigators, claiming that the boy “disguised himself and threw himself (on the floor) because he didn’t want to.”
“I know you’re coming at me like I’m Gabriel’s mother,” she said in an apparent reference to the case against Pearl Fernandez, who was convicted alongside her boyfriend of the murder of their 8-year-old son. “And it was nothing like that. I promise I didn’t hurt my son. I didn’t let anyone hurt my son. I promise God. You can give me a lie detector test. I did not do that.”
In a second interview with Detectives, Barron admitted that she initially didn’t tell them Leiva was in the house because she was “scared” and didn’t want to go to jail.
She claimed Leiva “didn’t touch Anthony” and said that “nobody did anything to him,” but said that Leiva shouldn’t be in her apartment because it’s a low-income facility and she had been threatened the managers that they would be kicked out if someone kept coming by.
When asked by Assistant District Attorney Saeed Teymouri that Barron appeared to be “hysterical” and “stuttering” at times during taped interviews with detectives, Sgt. Robert Wilkinson replied, saying, “It seemed that, in my opinion, she was trying to a feigning emotion. I’ve never seen tears.”
Multiple first responders testified Tuesday that the woman was not crying or hysterical as they attempted to resuscitate her son.
Sheriff’s Deputy Brandon Vanarsdale testified that the emergency personnel who treated the boy appeared more upset than his mother.
In his opening statement of the trial, Teymouri told the judge Barron and Leiva tortured and abused Anthony two weeks before his death, while a lawyer for Leiva countered that his client should be acquitted of the murder.
“Anthony Avalos graduated fourth grade on June 7, 2018 and was abused and tortured every day for two consecutive weeks, culminating when first responders found his lifeless body on June 20,” Teymouri said.
The boy died early the next morning.
Teymouri told the judge that since 2014 there had been multiple contacts with the county’s Department of Children and Family Services.
“She has been torturing her children for a long period of time, and when the defendant Leiva came into the picture, it became fatal,” he said.
The prosecutor said the boy was “already brain dead” and had been lying on the floor at the family’s townhouse for “at least a day, possibly longer” when Barron called 911 to seek help for the boy, and that the two “made up one.” story that Anthony Avalos had self-injured.”
The boy had “new and old injuries — literally from head to toe,” the assistant prosecutor said, showing a photograph of the boy when he was alive and then a video from the hospital showing some of his injuries.
Leiva later admitted he made the boy kneel on uncooked rice and admitted he had knocked him unconscious for about five minutes just days earlier, according to prosecutors.
Leiva’s lawyer countered that the evidence showed that there was “reasonable doubt” about the murder charges against his client. Dan Chambers said the two main issues are “lack of intent to kill” and “cause”. ‘
The defense attorney challenged the accounts of the boy’s half-siblings, whose testimonies have varied over time.
Chambers told the judge that many of the children’s testimonies were “inconsistent,” saying their original testimonies demonstrated “a lack of action on Mr. Leiva’s behalf in relation to the treatment of Anthony” and Mr. Leiva’s conduct was alleged worse” as the children continued to be interrogated.
“These inconsistencies in the evidence will be apparent and once we show it shows that what the children claim Mr. Leiva is doing is inconsistent with the medical evidence,” the defense attorney said. “This case is a serious abuse case, but Mr. Leiva is not a murder case,” the defense attorney told the judge.
Barron’s attorneys reserve the right to issue a opening statement when the defense begins its side of the case.
Barron and Leiva were charged with the boy’s murder in June 2018 and were subsequently indicted by a Los Angeles County grand jury in October 2018. They remain detained without bail.
Last October, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors officially approved a $32 million settlement for a lawsuit filed by the boy’s relatives — two of whom testified last week that they were the Department of Children and County Family Services of the alleged abuse. The lawsuit alleged that several social workers failed to adequately respond to reports of the abuse of Anthony and his siblings.
The lawsuit cited other high-profile child deaths also monitored by the DCFS – 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez and 4-year-old Noah Cuatro, both from Palmdale — to “systemic flaws” at the agency.
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https://abc7.com/anthony-avalos-kareem-ernesto-leiva-trial-los-angeles/12771202/ Death of Anthony Avalos: Mother’s friend Kareem Ernesto Leiva admits to disciplining 10-year-old boy