Anthony Avalos' 4th Grade Teacher Shares Heartbreaking Note He Wrote Her 2 Weeks Before His Alleged Murder

Anthony Avalos' mother, Heather Barron, and her former live-in boyfriend, Kareem Leiva, are currently on trial and charged with the 10-year-old's 2018 murder and torture

Content warning: This article contains disturbing descriptions of violence.

Anthony Avalos — the 10-year-old California boy who died in 2018 after days of alleged brutal torture — wrote a letter to his teacher two weeks before his death saying he wanted to stay with her forever.

On Wednesday, during the murder trial for Anthony's mother, Heather Barron, and her former boyfriend, Kareem Leiva, the boy's fourth grade teacher, Harmony Bell, took the witness stand and described her former student, who died on June 21, 2018 after being found unresponsive a day earlier at his family's apartment in Lancaster, Calif. It was later determined that Anthony died from internal bleeding likely caused from consistently being beaten for many days, weeks and even years.

"I just want to stay with you forever, but I can't," Anthony's handwritten letter — which Bell read aloud during trial — said, ABC 7 reports. "I just hope you have a good rest of your life, because you already know that I'm going to have a good life."

Less than two weeks after his tragic death, Barron, now 33, was charged with one count of murder and one count of torture in connection with Anthony's death, according to earlier reporting by PEOPLE. Her live-in boyfriend at the time, Kareem Leiva, now 37, is facing the same charges.

While crying during her testimony, Bell said Anthony was "everyone's best friend" and "always happy and a joy to be around," ABC 7 reports. Bell testified that she did not see any signs of child abuse while she was Anthony's teacher.

Anthony Avalos
Anthony Avalos. Maria Barron/Facebook

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A former classmate and friend of Anthony's — a now 14-year-old girl named Sofia — also took the stand on Wednesday to testify about Anthony, saying the boy was "always hungry," the outlet reports.

"If they were passing out snacks in class, he'd ask for extras," she testified, per ABC 7. "One thing I did notice was that he saved enough for not only him but also for his siblings, too."

Anthony lived with his six younger siblings, as well as Barron and Leiva.

Prosecutors also played two phone calls the Department of Children and Family Services received reporting suspected child abuse against Anthony and his siblings — one in September 2015 and one in April 2016. Neither call resulted in any action against Barron or Leiva.

Antony Avalos. Maria Barron/Facebook; Inset: Justice for Anthony/Facebook

According to a review of DCFS's contact with Anthony and his family — completed by the Office of Child Protection after his death — the agency had 13 contacts with them from February 2013 to November 2016, according to earlier reporting by PEOPLE.

Among those who reported possible abuse or neglect were law enforcement, relatives, school employees, therapists and others. Between 2015 and 2016, Barron completed programs on domestic violence and parenting, then contact with DCFS ended.

It was Barron who called 911 on June 20, 2018 to claim that Anthony was hurt after being injured in a fall, according to the L.A. County Sheriff's Department. But prosecutors say all of his injuries came from weeks and years of abuse at the hands of Barron and Leiva.

According to earlier reporting by PEOPLE, authorities believe that over the final five or six days of his life, Anthony suffered extremely disturbing abuse, including having hot sauce poured on his face and mouth, being made to kneel on rice for long periods of time, being whipped with a belt on his body, legs, buttocks and the bottom of his feet and being repeatedly held upside-down and dropped on his head.

According to the prosecution filing in 2018, Leiva was also accused of lifting Anthony and slamming him on the floor, then kicking him in the stomach. According to prosecutors, Leiva also allegedly made the children fight each other. It was also reported that Anthony and his siblings were often withheld food and would eat out of the trashcan because they were so hungry.

The prosecution also said there was evidence the children were allegedly hit with power cords and vacuum tubes, as well as by Leiva's fists.

Anthony's uncle David Barron, who is Barron's brother, previously told PEOPLE that over the years, he called child welfare workers at least five times and had confronted his sister about the alleged abuse of Anthony and three of his oldest siblings.

David also said that Barron did not allow Anthony's father to see Anthony.

"He would always try to be there for him, buy him clothes and stuff, but Heather would just throw them at him and tell him to stay away," David told PEOPLE.

Eventually, Barron no longer allowed David or his wife to see the children.

"After we called children services, she was afraid if she lost her kids she wouldn't be able to get her welfare money anymore so she thought we were messing with her livelihood," he said. "Anthony told us that if he said hi to us he would get spanked beside his head. She told him that we're not his family, our kids aren't his cousins and to ignore us."

David hadn't seen Anthony, who he described as a "great kid," for three years before his death.

"Everybody fell in love with him instantly," David said.

Barron and Leiva's trial is expected to last three more weeks.

If you suspect child abuse, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453, or go to All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.

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