Couple could face death penalty in alleged torture, slaying of 10-year-old boy

A California woman and her boyfriend could face the death penalty in the June slaying of her 10-year-old son, whom authorities say was lashed, body-slammed and forced to kneel on rice -- among other torture claims, according to reports Wednesday.

Heather Barron, 29, and Kareem Leiva, 32, of Lancaster, pleaded not guilty to all criminal charges, including murder involving the infliction of torture, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Anthony died June 21. In the days leading up to his death, Barron and Leiva allegedly poured hot sauce on the boy's face, gave him rug burns, and dropped him on his head after dangling him upside down, the Times reported, citing Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami's motion.

“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,” according to Hatami's motion, which seeks to establish a long-standing pattern of alleged child abuse, according to a Times report in July.

The criminal complaint was amended, and there was a "special circumstance allegation" added against Barron and Leiva to make the pair eligible for the death penalty, a statement from the L.A. County District Attorney's Office said. The murder of Anthony was "intentional and involved the infliction of torture," the complaint said.

During the court hearing Wednesday, Barron tapped her foot "incessantly," while Leiva stared at the ground, the Times reported. Both defendant appeared "stoic and downcast," Tribune Media reported.

A spokesman for Los Angeles County Supervisor said the charges painted “a clearer picture of the senseless and horrific torture and murder of an innocent child at the hands of his own mother and her boyfriend,” according to the Times.

The L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services received tips that the boy was being abused, but allowed him to remain in the home with his mother and her boyfriend, the report said.

The agency investigated 88 claims of abuse dating to 2013, according to an attorney representing the boy’s relatives, the Times reported. Two of the 15 substantiated claims involved sexual abuse, the lawyer said.

Seven children, between 11 months and 12 years old, were removed from the home after Anthony's death, the L.A. County Sheriff's Department said, according to Tribune Media.

The prosecutor said Leiva hit Anthony’s younger brother with enough force that the boy needed medical attention and staples to close a head wound, the Times reported. Leiva hit at least three other siblings with a hose, hurled dirty diapers at them and forced them to squat against a wall for long periods of time, Hatami wrote.

"DCFS had the opportunity to save [Anthony and his siblings] and they chose to look the other way. ... They need to change the way they do things."

— Maria Barron, sister-in-law of dead boy's mother

“As long as she doesn’t walk free,” David Barron, brother of Heather, told the Times, with tears in his eyes.

He then shouted, “We want a full-blown investigation!” when speaking about the DCFS and the social workers who handled Anthony’s case.

"DCFS had the opportunity to save [Anthony and his siblings] and they chose to look the other way. ... They need to change the way they do things," Maria, David's wife, told Tribune Media while appearing to hold back tears.

“How many more kids need to die?” said his wife, Maria. “Enough is enough!”

Both defendants are scheduled to return to court for a hearing on Nov. 27.