Kareem Levia, a 32-year-old resident of Lancaster, has just been taken into police custody under the suspicion of murdering his ten-year-old stepson.

The suspect was apprehended after being interviewed by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department regarding the death of Anthony Avalos. The ten-year-old boy was found unresponsive in his home by emergency medical staff when the boy’s mother, Heather Barron, called 911 on June 27. The boy’s mother told responding officers that the ten-year-old had experienced a fall before becoming unresponsive. Avalos was rushed to a local hospital, but he was declared deceased the following day when medical staff were unable to save him.

Investigators looking into Avalos’ cause of death discovered that the family had multiple interactions with the state’s Department of Children and Family Services dating back to 2013. When Avalos was four, the state intervened when it was alleged that the youngster was being sexually abused by a grandparent. Later incidents led the state to become concerned that Avalos was also experiencing emotional and physical abuse within the home.

Maria Barron, the victim’s aunt, told news reporters that she was convinced abuse was occurring in the home. In 2015, she contacted DCFS when she began seeing Anthony with several unexplained bruises and injuries. She alleged that the mother forced Anthony and other children into spaces where they did not have working toilets, and the kids were forced to defecate on the floor.

The mother was interviewed by police, but she has not yet been charged with any crime. Authorities suspect that the victim’s recent actions of coming out of the closet as gay escalated the step-father’s rage and abuse. After being detained, Leiva was medically treated for a self-inflicted wound before being taken to jail. He is currently facing a $2 million bond. The couple's other children in the home have been removed by the state for their own safety.