Tentative $32M Settlement In Abuse Death Of California Boy

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A tentative $32 million settlement has been reached with Los Angeles County in a lawsuit over its child welfare agency’s supervision of a boy who allegedly was abused to death by his mother and her boyfriend, attorneys announced Wednesday.

The settlement in the 2018 death of 10-year-old Anthony Avalos requires approval by the five-member county Board of Supervisors, said Brian Claypool, one of the lawyers who brought the lawsuit on behalf of the boy's three siblings and his father.

The lawsuit alleged that the county's Department of Children and Family Services and a contracted company that supplies counseling disregarded reports of abuse.

The tentative settlement, which does not include the contractor, was reached shortly before the claim against the county was to go to trial.

Claypool said the basis of the lawsuit was that the county department was notified 13 times of abuse in Anthony's home in the high desert city of Lancaster.

Sheriff's deputies who went to the home in response to a 911 call from the mother on June 20, 2018, were told that the boy was injured in a fall. He died in a hospital the next day.

Claypool said prosecution photos he looked at showed the boy was covered in bruises.

“Anthony never got the help of DCFS that he deserved,” the attorney told reporters. “Anthony needed a lifeline and DCFS failed.”

Anthony's mother, Heather Barron, and her boyfriend, Kareem Leive, are facing murder and torture charges. They have pleaded not guilty and remain in custody pending trial.

After the death, the county Board of Supervisors pledged to issue a public report by the director of its Office of Child Protection on any systemic issues issues with DCFS and other county agencies involving Anthony's case.

The Los Angeles Times reported in September 2019 that the report included recommendations such as increasing staffing in the region where Anthony lived but emphasized that the boy had not been under county oversight for more than a year before his death and no one had told the agency of ongoing danger during that time.

The tentative settlement was reached on May 4, which would have been Anthony's 14th birthday, Claypool noted.

“We are very confident that the LA County Board of Supervisors will do the right thing,” he said.

The lawsuit is still pending against the mental health services contractor.