Heather Barron and her boyfriend Kareem Leiva are eligible for the death penalty for the murder of her son, Anthony Avalos, following new charges that his death was intentional and involved torture.
A mother and her boyfriend were facing the death penalty in the murder and torture of a 10-year-old Lancaster boy, prosecutors announced Wednesday.
Heather Maxine Barron, 29, and Kareem Ernesto Leiva, 32, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to murder, torture and a special circumstance allegation that they intended to kill the woman's son, Anthony Avalos, through torture, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
Both defendants appeared stoic and downcast as they sat in the courtroom. Leiva kept his gaze trained on the ground nearly the entire time, while Barron silently stared ahead at the proceedings.
If convicted as charged, the two could be sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Prosecutors also filed an additional count of child abuse against the pair for allegedly beating the 10-year-old's younger brother.
According to investigators, Barron called 911 on June 20 claiming her son had fallen in their Lancaster apartment in the 1100 block of East Avenue K. Responding officers discovered Anthony unresponsive and had him taken to the hospital, where he died the next morning.
Avalos had reportedly recently come out as gay, leading to the abuse that would end his young life.