'He was always loved': Family of Anthony Avalos speaks out

A day after a Lancaster woman and her boyfriend were convicted of killing her 10-year-old son Anthony Avalos, the boy's family is speaking out to FOX 11. 

Anthony's uncle and aunt want people to remember him as a loving, happy, and caring young boy. 

"I remember him as one of the sweetest, loving kids. That’s all he really wanted was love and affection. And he gave everyone love and affection, it didn’t matter if he knew you for five minutes or five years, he would come up and hug you and greet you with open arms," said David Barron, Anthony's uncle. 

On Tuesday, Judge Sam Ohta found Heather Maxine Barron, 33 and Kareem Ernesto Leiva, 37, guilty of first degree murder and torture in the June 21, 2018, death of Anthony. The judge also found true the special circumstance allegation of murder involving the infliction of torture. They were also convicted of two counts of child abuse involving the boy's half-siblings, identified in court as "Destiny O." and "Rafael O."

"I guarantee you, with everything going on at home, he was probably trying to comfort his brothers and sisters and just be the happy kid we always knew him as," Barron emotionally said. 


Leiva and Barron now face a maximum of life in prison without the possibility of parole when they are sentenced April 25. The death penalty was taken off the table after the election of District Attorney George Gascón.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has also halted all death penalty cases. 

Deputy DA Jonathan Hatami has worked the case for five years, and while he isn't a proponent of the death penalty, he says there are some exceptions. The family was also in support of the death penalty. 

"I wanted the death penalty because once I found out how bad the abuse was and the torture, no adult, let alone a child should have to go through that. And that was his mother doing that to him, the one that's supposed to protect him. To me, that's no longer human. That's not my sister. That's a monster. Monsters should be killed," Barron said.  

In October, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors formally approved a $32 million settlement of a lawsuit filed by the boy's relatives -- two of whom testified that they notified the county's Department of Children and Family Services about the alleged abuse. The lawsuit contended that multiple social workers failed to properly respond to reports of abuse of Anthony and his siblings.

The family expressed gratitude to Judge Ohta and prosecutors, while criticizing not only Gascón, but also the Department of Children and Family Services.

"Them coming out and telling me they were guilty of all four, I felt relieved, some sort of closure and it’s for him. To them I don’t know exactly what I want to say, but I need to prepare for that day," said Anthony's aunt Maricruz Avalos. 

"I was Anthony's voice and his strength and he gave me the strength to go in there. Look at her in the eye and make sure that we got the justice that he deserved," his uncle added.