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Homophobia may have led to Lancaster 10-year-old's death, officials say

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Posted at 3:49 PM, Jun 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-28 18:50:43-04

(KGTV) - The death of a 10-year-old boy in Lancaster, Calif., this month may have been linked to his recent acknowledgment that he was gay, authorities say.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department responded to the boy's home on June 20, after reports of an unconscious child, according to ABC News. The boy was rushed to the hospital but died the following day.

Family members in the home told LA deputies the boy, identified as Anthony Avalos, was injured in a fall.

An interview with the boyfriend of Avalos' mother, 32-year-old Kareem Leiva, led to Leiva's arrest.

"During the course of their interview, Suspect Leiva made statements that led investigators to arrest him for the murder of Anthony Avalos," a statement from the L.A. County Sheriff's Department read.

Watch the LA County Sheriff's press conference:

The Department of Child and Family Services reported they received at least 13 referrals for "possible physical, emotional and sexual abuse" of Avalos between February 2013 and April 2016, ABC News reported, including signs of "severe head injuries, including a brain bleed, contusions and bruises all over the body."

DCFS Director Bobby Cagle told KABC that they are looking into whether homophobia from Leiva played a role in the boy's death.

"One of the things that we have heard is that there may have been a motivation on the part of the man in the household regarding to the sexuality of the child, and so we're looking into that in a very deep way," Cagle told KABC.

 The Los Angeles Times reported Brandon Nichols, deputy director of DCFS, said Monday that Avalos "said he liked boys," though when this occurred was not specified.

Heather Barron, Avalos' mother, has not been charged in connection with the child's death. Leiva is being held on $2 million bond.