A 10-year-old Southern California boy who came out as gay was starved and tortured for days before his death, sometimes by younger brothers and sisters forced to take part in the beatings, according to prosecutors who have charged his mother and her boyfriend with his murder.
KNBC-TV on Tuesday cited court documents that alleged vicious and repeated abuse of Anthony Avalos at his Lancaster home in the Mojave Desert north of Los Angeles for five or six days before his death on June 21.
The torture included slamming the boy onto the bedroom floor, whipping him with a belt and cord, pouring hot sauce into his mouth and forbidding him to use the bathroom, according to the documents, the Daily Mail reports.
Eight siblings witnessed and were forced to take part in some of the abuse, which according to the documents included making the other children fight Anthony and forcing the children keep watch "so Anthony would remain standing or kneeling".
"At one point Anthony could not walk, was unconscious lying on his bedroom floor for hours, was not provided medical attention, and could not eat on his own," Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami wrote in an motion filed on Monday that asks a court to admit previous child abuse reports into evidence.
Sheriff's deputies were called to Anthony's home a day before he died at a hospital. His mother said the boy had fallen down stairs.
Heather Maxine Barron, 28, and her boyfriend, Kareem Ernesto Leiva, 32, were charged with torture and murder. They haven't entered pleas and remained jailed pending a hearing next month.
Hatami's motion said that when the boy was brought to a hospital, his heart had stopped and he had suffered a traumatic brain injury and a brain bleed.
Anthony also had reddened eyes and numerous bruises, cuts and scrapes on his forehead, nose, mouth, cheek, neck, legs, shoulder, hips, back, buttocks, stomach, ankle, legs and foot.
County child welfare officials had received a dozen referrals of suspected child abuse about the boy from 2013 until 2016. Anthony had been removed from his home for several months when some of the reports of abuse were substantiated. He was returned after family members received in-home counselling, welfare officials said.
After Anthony's death, authorities removed the eight other children - aged between 11 months and 12 years old - from the home. They are being cared for by county child welfare workers, officials said.
It's believed that Anthony had come out as gay in the weeks before his death.
Brandon Nichols, deputy director of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, told the Los Angeles Times that the child had said 'I like boys'. Nichols did not say if Anthony had told anyone else.
Authorities are now investigating whether homophobia played a role in Anthony's death.
If convicted, Anthony's mother could face up to 22 years to life in state prison. Her boyfriend could be sentenced to 32 years to life in prison.