The stepfather of a 10-year-old boy who died weeks after coming out as gay was arrested on Wednesday

By Alexia Fernandez
June 27, 2018 11:39 PM

The boyfriend of a woman whose 10-year-old son died weeks after coming out as gay was arrested on Wednesday.

Anthony Avalos was found unresponsive at his home June 20 in Lancaster, California. He died the next day.

His mother’s boyfriend, Kareem Leiva, 32, was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of murder after he was interviewed by Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators the same day, Sheriff Jim McDonnell said during a press conference.

“I can tell you that what the investigators learned led them to believe they could file for charges of murder, which he is going to be booked on,” McDonnell said, adding that Leiva made statements that led detectives to arrest him for Anthony’s death.

Leiva will be booked and has a $2 million bond. Before his arrest, Leiva was treated for a self-inflicted laceration on his upper chest.

It was initially reported Anthony had cigarette burns all over his body, however, McDonnell said this is not, in fact, the case.

While McDonnell said there were not burns, he does believe Anthony died from abuse.

Anthony Avalos
Justice for Anthony/Facebook

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reported that Brandon Nichols, deputy director of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, said Anthony came out to his family weeks before he died, saying “he liked boys.”

While DCFS is looking into whether that may have played a role in the boy’s death, sheriff’s Capt. Chris Bergner said at the news conference that homophobia had “not come up” so far in detectives’ investigation.

Other children found in the home where Anthony was found are now in the custody of the DCFS, McDonnell said, where they would wait “for proper placement.”

Anthony’s mother, Heather Barron, was also interviewed by investigators on Wednesday, although she was not arrested or charged with any crimes.

It was Barron who called 911 at about 12:15 p.m. on Wednesday saying her son was unresponsive, the Times reported. He died in a hospital the next day. Barron allegedly claimed the injuries came from a fall.

About 12 calls were made to DCFS in relation to Anthony beginning in February 2013,DCFS Director Bobby Cagle told news station KABC-TV.

The newspaper reported the first call alleged sexual abuse by a grandparent that did not live with Anthony or the other six children in the home. Anthony was 4 years old at the time.

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Other allegations included sexual, emotional and physical abuse as well as neglect, the newspaper reported.

Anthony’s aunt, Maria Barron, told the Times that living in an allegedly abusive situation and coming out “only reinforces how brave Anthony was.”

Maria says she began alerting DCFS in 2015 to bruises and other injuries she began noticing on the children which she alleged were caused by Leiva.

She told the department the children alleged Leiva had locked them in small spaces where they had to urinate and defecate on the floor, according to the outlet.