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Arrest made in death of Lancaster 10-year-old

Latest controversy for DCFS

City News Service | 6/29/2018, midnight
A man was arrested this week on suspicion of murdering his girlfriend's 10-year-old son..
Anthony Avalos

A man was arrested this week on suspicion of murdering his girlfriend's 10-year-old son, whose death led the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to call for a comprehensive review of why the Lancaster tot wasn't removed from his family home despite multiple reports to the Department of Children and Family Services.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department conducted a Wednesday news conference to discuss the arrest of 32-year-old Kareem Leiva.

Anthony Avalos died at a hospital last Thursday. Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies and paramedics had responded to a 911 call from his mother about 12:15 p.m. the previous day and found the boy unresponsive inside his family's apartment. Authorities said they were told the child had suffered injuries from a fall, but investigators quickly classified the death as “suspicious.''

According to NBC4, Leiva was told he would be taken into custody during an interview with sheriff's homicide detectives at an office on Sierra Highway. At that point, he revealed a neck wound that he said he inflicted upon himself as a suicide attempt, the station reported, citing law enforcement sources. An ambulance -- along with a sheriff's escort -- took Leiva to a hospital, according to Channel 4.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors approved a motion by Supervisor Kathryn Barger calling for a thorough review of why Anthony wasn't removed from his family home, despite a dozen reports to the Department of Children and Family Services between 2013-16, including a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse by a grandparent when the boy was 4 years old.

“You had teachers, you had family members, you had law enforcement come in contact. And yet, Anthony's at the morgue; we're awaiting autopsy results,'' Barger said. “One has to wonder what it's going to take to get the attention of not only the social workers, but the public in general, because I'm told that neighbors also were aware of what was taking place.''

Barger and other county officials repeatedly said that they would wait for all the facts to come in before drawing conclusions about exactly what happened to the boy. However, Barger called it a “senseless murder,'' explaining that “we don't have a conclusion, but there's no other explanation.''

Barger noted that an 8-year-old Palmdale boy was beaten to death in 2013 by his mother's boyfriend, despite multiple calls to DCFS over a period of years. The boyfriend has been sentenced to death for the crime and Gabriel's mother was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Four DCFS officials are awaiting trial on criminal charges stemming from Gabriel's death.

Another potential parallel is a concern that homophobia may have contributed to both boys abuse.

The boy had reportedly come out as gay in recent weeks, according to the Los Angeles Times. DCFS Director Bobby Cagle subsequently told City News Service that he was told that Anthony said “he liked boys and girls'' and that the context of the boy's comment was not entirely clear.

A statement released by Cagle laying out details of the case said Anthony had been severely beaten and was malnourished when paramedics arrived last Wednesday in response to the 911 call from his mother.