QUARTZ HILL (CNS) - Hundreds of friends, relatives and classmates -- many donning superhero shirts or capes -- gathered today for a solemn funeral to remember Anthony Avalos, the 10-year-old Lancaster boy who was allegedly tortured to death by his mother and her boyfriend.
Anthony's family urged people attending the funeral service to wear superhero attire.
``He was a hero,” Anthony's uncle, David Barron, told reporters outside St. Junipero Serra Parish Church in Quartz Hill. ``He fought for kids who couldn't fight for themselves.”
Barron said Anthony's classmates said he would stand up for kids being bullied, and he also tried to shield his siblings from abuse at home.
The boy's aunt, Maria Barron, added, ``I will forever hold him in my heart. He will forever be my hero.”
Anthony's father, Victor, thanked the community for its support of the family.
``I just want to put my son to rest now, you know,” he said. ``And I've got to go, head back home and make sure I hug my kids.”
The funeral service was a heartbreaking experience for some of Anthony's classmates.
``He was my first-grade friend and now he's dead,” Jonathan Peitz told NBC4 outside the church.
Following the funeral service, Anthony's casket was taken to Good Shepherd Cemetery in Lancaster for a private burial.
Anthony was found unresponsive in his mother's home June 20. He died the next day.
Prosecutors contend in court papers that Anthony was severely tortured during the last five or six days of his life, alleging that his mother and her boyfriend ``abused, beat, assaulted and tortured Anthony Avalos,”
The alleged abuse included whipping the boy with a belt and a looped cord, pouring hot sauce on his face and mouth, holding him by his feet and dropping him on his head repeatedly, according to the court papers filed earlier this month.
Anthony's mother, Heather Barron, 28, and her boyfriend, Kareem Leiva, 32, have been charged with murder and torture in the boy's death.
An attorney for Anthony's family, including his father, aunt and uncle, is also demanding answers from the county Department of Children and Family Services, alleging the agency had multiple contacts with the family in recent years and indications of abuse but failed to take steps to protect the boy.
DCFS officials say they are conducting a thorough review of the case.