Stepfather arrested in death of 10-year-old boy: LASD
Kareem Leiva, Anthony Avalos

By Cindy Von Quednow and John Fenoglio, KTLA

LANCASTER, Calif. -- (KTLA) -- The stepfather of a Lancaster boy who died under suspicious circumstances last week has been arrested, Los Angeles County Sheriff's officials confirmed Wednesday.

Anthony Avalos was found unresponsive after a reported fall in his Lancaster home along the 1100 block of East Avenue K June 21.

The boy died the following day.

He had a head injury and bruises covering his body, family members said, but Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said his injuries were "grossly overstated."

Kareem Leiva, 32, the boyfriend of the boy's mother, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of murder after being interviewed, sheriff's officials announced at a news conference. He had a self-inflicted laceration to the upper chest and was being treated for his injuries, McDonnell said.

Leiva is expected to be booked on suspicion of murder and his bail will be set at $2 million.

The boy's mother, identified by the Los Angeles Times as Heather Barron, has not been arrested in connection with the crime, but the investigation is ongoing, McDonnell said.

A final autopsy to determine the boy's death has not been completed.

The L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services had previously responded to reports of child abuse at the same home, a source familiar with the investigation told the newspaper.

Law enforcement officials and child protection workers had documented years of abuse allegations, sources told the Times.

During a vigil for Anthony on Saturday, an aunt told KTLA that the boy "bruises all over his body" and a head injury at the time of his death. Maria Barron said she filed a report with DCFS three years ago over concern for his mother and her boyfriend's treatment of their kids.

Barron told the Times that the children also said Leiva locked them in small spaces where they had to urinate and defecate on the floor.

Seven children who either lived or were associated with the victim’s family were removed from the home, according to the Sheriff's Department. The children’s ages ranged from 11 months to 12 years old.

Another aunt told KTLA that her feels "a little bit better" after an arrest was made in her nephew's death, but more needs to be done to achieve justice.

"We want everybody that was involved in his death to pay for it." Karla Avalos said. "He might not be here, but we are his voice right now."

McDonnell said there have been a "number of" suspected child abuse reports that are being investigated during the case.

"We're digging into this very seriously," the sheriff said.

The boy had come out as gay in recent weeks, the Times reported, and authorities are investigating whether that played a role in the boy's death. During the news conference Wednesday, however, McDonnell said homophobia "hasn't come up as a motivation."

FULL STORY: Stepfather arrested in death of 10-year-old Lancaster boy: LASD - KTLA