Los Angeles

Anthony Avalos: LA County approves $32M settlement over death of 10-year-old Lancaster boy

LANCASTER, Calif. (KABC) — The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday formally approved a $32 million dollar settlement between the county and family of Anthony Avalos, a 10-year-old Lancaster boy who died in 2018 after allegedly being tortured.

Anthony’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the county and multiple social workers and accused them of failing to properly respond to reports of abuse of Anthony and his half-siblings.

The settlement of the county’s portion of the lawsuit over the boy’s death was announced in May, and attorneys for the family confirmed a week later that the county would be paying $32 million, pending Board of Supervisors approval.

“We’re pleased with the Board of Supervisors approving the $32-million settlement in the Anthony Avalos case, but this isn’t the end,” plaintiffs’ attorney Brian E. Claypool said Tuesday. “This is just the beginning on behalf of Anthony Avalos. We always pursued this case to make social change and we will continue that in the coming years on behalf of Anthony.”

Following the board’s approval of the settlement Tuesday, Claypool issued a statement on behalf of the Avalos family, saying they will continue to push for legislative changes aimed at improving DCFS operations and protecting children.

“We will be partnering with a state legislator to bring about Anthony’s Law,” Claypool said. “This law would require DCFS to deploy a forensic child psychologist to interview a child ‘outside the presence’ of parents when there has been a report of severe suspected child abuse. DCFS workers are not properly trained to interview a child who may have been abused or sexually assaulted. A trained professional who specializes in child abuse would be required to conduct the interview.”

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.

Lancaster community remembers Anthony Avalos on what would’ve been his 13th birthday

Anthony’s mother, 32-year-old Heather Barron and her boyfriend, Kareem Ernesto Leiva, were indicted by a grand jury 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.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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