LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A Lancaster woman and her boyfriend who tortured and murdered the woman’s 10-year-old son were sentenced today to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Heather Maxine Barron, 33, and Kareem Ernesto Leiva, 37, were convicted in a non-jury trial on March 7 of first-degree murder and torture for the June 21, 2018, death of Anthony Avalos. Superior Court Judge Sam Ohta, who found the couple guilty, handed down the life-without-parole sentences for the pair Tuesday morning after hearing more than two hours of emotional statements from the boy’s relatives and friends, many of whom referred to the defendants as “monsters.”
“Anthony was a helpless child who was dependant (on the defendants)… for his basic physical needs and emotional support. Instead, Anthony was tortured and killed,” Ohta said as he meticulously walked through his sentencing decision.
Neither Barron nor Leiva spoke during the hearing.
The judge said in his March 7 verdict that the couple “worked together to deprive Anthony access to liquids for a substantial length of time causing severe dehydration,” and that the “condition of Anthony’s body, which shows multiple bruises, cuts, possible burn marks all over his body show the extreme torture caused by the combined treatment of Anthony by both defendants manifesting an intent to kill by each defendant.”
Ohta rejected the defendants’ claims that Anthony had been injured after throwing himself to the ground and said that their statements were intended to “deceive authorities” about what had actually happened to the boy.
“Defendant Barron waited to call 911 until Anthony was literally deceased on the afternoon of June 20, 2018. This flagrant lack of care for Anthony’s life all points to intent to kill by both defendant Barron and defendant Leiva,” the judge said, adding that subsequent statements by Barron and Leiva were part of a coordinated effort to cover up their liability for the boy’s death.
The judge also found true the special circumstance allegation of murder involving the infliction of torture of Anthony.
The two were also convicted of two counts of child abuse involving the boy’s half-siblings, identified in court as “Destiny O.” and “Rafael O,” although the judge rejected an enhancement of great bodily injury against Leiva involving Rafael.