Anthony Avalos (Facebook)
A 10-year-old American boy was allegedly murdered by his mother’s boyfriend in Southern California after he came out as gay.
NBC News reported that the suspect, who was described as a member of a violent gang, was arrested on Wednesday, June 28. A county official said it was feared that homophobia played a role in his death.
Ten-year-old Anthony Avalos was taken to hospital on June 20th after his mother called 911 to report that he had been injured in a fall.
Avalos was unresponsive and not breathing when paramedics found him in his Lancaster home, and died the next day.
According to child welfare services, his body showed signs of physical abuse and malnutrition and his death was classified as suspicious. The Los Angeles Times reported that the deputy director of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Families stated that the boy had earlier said he liked boys, prompting speculation that his sexuality could have played a role in his death.
After Avalos’ death, eight to 10 children, between the ages of 11 months and 12 years, were removed from the home. The suspect, Kareem Leiva (32), was arrested at the Lancaster Police Station after he reportedly “made statements” that made police believe that he could have been involved in the child’s death. Leiva has been held on $2 million bail.
Avalos’ uncle and co-worker of the accused said the suspect had a history of homophobia, recalling a number of times in which Leiva said he was “uncomfortable just being around” gay men.
It’s also been reported that Avalos suffered years of physical, sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of family members. Twelve reports were cited between 2013 and 2016, including sexual abuse by a grandparent when the victim was only 4 years old. It is not yet clear whether Avalos’ mother, Heather Barron, will also be charged in connection with her son’s death.