The Board of Supervisors has approved a $32 million settlement of a lawsuit filed by relatives of a 10-year-old Lancaster boy who died in 2018 after allegedly being subjected to extensive torture by his mother and her boyfriend.
The settlement of the county’s portion of the lawsuit over the death of Anthony Avalos was announced in May, and attorneys for the family confirmed a week later that the county would be paying $32 million.
The lawsuit accused the county and multiple social workers of failing to properly respond to reports of abuses of Anthony and his half-siblings.
“This little boy should not have endured anything that he did,” plaintiffs’ attorney Brian E. Claypool said at a May news conference. “Anthony knows he did not die in vain because he died so other kids could live.”
The other remaining defendant in the lawsuit, Pasadena-based Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services, settled its portion of the case in August for an undisclosed amount.
The suit alleged Hathaway-Sycamores assigned employee Barbara Dixon to work with the family even though she had allegedly not reported abuse in the case of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez of Palmdale, who, like Anthony, was killed while in the care of his mother and her boyfriend. According to Claypool, Dixon was an unlicensed intern.
In their court papers, attorneys for Hathaway-Sycamores stated the plaintiffs made no allegations as to what Dixon allegedly witnessed or whether she suspected any abuse that was not already part of what the county Department of Children and Family Services already knew.
A grand jury indicted Heather Maxine Barron, 32, and her boyfriend, Kareem Ernesto Leiva, 36, in October 2018 on charges that they murdered the boy and abused two other children in the household. The District Attorney’s Office in May 2021 reversed course and announced it would no longer seek the death penalty against the pair, who now face a possible maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.
Anthony’s father, Victor Avalos, said during the May news conference that he still has trouble coping with his son’s death.
“Nothing is going to bring him back,” Victor Avalos said.
Anthony’s aunt, Maria Barron, held a photo of a smiling Anthony. She said the boy lived happily with her and her husband, David Barron, for seven years until the county Department of Children and Family Services ordered him returned to his mother.
“I truly believe Anthony could have been saved if DCFS did its job properly,” Maria Barron said.