On Wednesday, an arrest was made in the brutal killing of 10-year-old Anthony Avalos, a boy who had recently come out, saying he “liked boys” mere weeks before he was found covered in cigarette burns with severe head injuries. He died last Thursday.
32-year-old Kareem Leiva is in the custody of Southern California police, and he has been charged with murder. Leiva is reportedly a member of the violent gang MS-13, which has a branch in El Salvador that murders members if they are outed as gay.
Anthony’s uncle David Barron told The Los Angeles Times that Leiva was outspokenly homophobic, saying he was “uncomfortable just being around” gay men.
According to police, homophobia hasn’t yet been discussed as a motive in Avalos’ death.
Leiva is being held on a $2 million bail.
According to NBC News, Anthony told authorities in private interviews that he had been “locked up, beaten and not fed,” consistent information with the over 16 calls Child Protective Services had received about the boy and his siblings.
Still, Anthony remained in his mother’s care.
Following the arrest of Leiva, eight other children have been removed from the home.
"Nobody did anything. I don’t know why they thought that was OK for them to go back with their mother," said Karla Avalos, Anthony’s aunt. “What is wrong with the system?"
The boy was found unresponsive in his Lancaster home last week when his mother Heather Barron called police saying he had suffered a “fall.”
DCFS director Bobby Cagle told NBC News it was "premature" to describe Avalos's torture and death as a failure of the child welfare system.