Death penalty dropped for California woman, boyfriend accused of torturing 10-year-old son to death

Heather Maxine Barron and Kareem Ernesto Leiva face murder charges for torturing and abusing Anthony Avalos until he was found unresponsive by paramedics.

Video Transcript

MARK KRISKI: Heather Maxine Barron and her boyfriend, Kareem Ernesto Leiva, are charged with murder and torture. And up until yesterday, it was a special circumstances case. In other words, a conviction could have resulted in the death penalty. The couple is accused of torturing Anthony to death in June of 2018. In court papers, authorities say, Barron and Leiva whipped the boy with a belt and a looped cord, held him by his feet, and dropped him on his head repeatedly, withheld food from him, and slammed him into furniture and the floor.

Deputies and paramedics found the boy unresponsive in the couple's apartment. They told authorities, Anthony had fallen, but investigators quickly realized that the death was suspicious and the two were booked for murder. Now, LA County District Attorney, George Gascón, who took office in December, says, he believes a sentence of death is never an appropriate resolution in any case.

And so, yesterday, he ordered prosecutors to drop their effort to seek the death penalty. Now, the most severe punishment that Leiva and Barron can face, if they are convicted, is life in prison without the possibility of parole. The prosecutor, Jonathan Hatami, is openly criticizing his boss's decision on Twitter. He says, "this is the major failure with the LA District Attorney's blanket policies.

It leaves out entire communities. It doesn't even consider public safety. In every single case, we should individually look at the evidence, the law, the facts, the victim, and survivor, and the ultimate goal of justice. We as Angelenos deserve this from our DA. Who voted for this? This is not fair or just."

And relatives of Anthony say, they are very disappointed. Here's what Anthony's uncle, David Barron, told the "LA Times," Quote, "I know the death penalty will not bring Anthony back, but this is one of the worst kinds of crimes you could commit. So, it deserves the worst kind of punishment."