Arrest made in death of 10-year-old boy found covered in cigarette burns: ‘Stepfather’ reveals gash on his neck, suicide attempt during police interview

The boyfriend of the mother of a 10-year-old boy who died under suspicious circumstances last week has been arrested.

NBC News reports that Kareem Leiva, 32, was taken into custody on Wednesday following an interview with Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department homicide detectives, “at an unmarked law enforcement office on Sierra Highway,” the report states.

“Homicide detectives interviewed Kareem Leiva earlier today at Lancaster Station and he was arrested for the murder of Anthony Avalos,” a sheriff’s spokesperson told NBC News.

Leiva has reportedly been identified as Anthony’s stepfather. Law enforcement sources told NBC News that during the interview, Leiva said he had attempted suicide and opened his shirt collar to show officers a gash on his neck, inflicted the day before in an apparent suicide attempt.

The suspect was transported to the hospital with a sheriff’s escort.

As CrimeOnline previously reported, Anthony was rushed to the hospital on Wednesday night from his home in Lancaster, where he was found unresponsive with what appeared to be a head injury. His body was covered in cigarette burns. The little boy was pronounced dead on Thursday morning.

Anthony’s mother had reportedly claimed that her son fell and hit his head, but authorities were skeptical of this explanation.


In recent years, school employees and relatives had reported suspected abuse at Anthony’s home to a child abuse hotline 16 times, and the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) fielded 13 calls about Anthony’s home between 2013 and 2016.

The abuse allegations include food deprivation, sexual abuse, and confinement. It is unclear why Anthony and his six siblings, who have since been removed from the home, did not receive a more significant intervention.

A DCFS representative confirmed to CBS News and NBC News that Anthony is believed to have come out as gay shortly before his death, reportedly saying “he liked boys.”

Authorities are reportedly investigating the possible role of homophobia in Anthony’s death.