Heather Leavell Keaton is on Alabama Death Row for the murders of two young children. According to court documents Leavell Keaton and her common law husband John DeBlase murdered the first child in March 2010, the ten year old child strangled to death after she was duct taped and placed in a closet. The second child was murdered in June 2010 when he was duct taped to a broom handle and placed in the closet. Both of the children would be later buried in the backyard. According to witnesses the two children were murdered after asking about their biological mother which enraged Heather. Both Heather and her common law husband John DeBlase would be convicted on both murders and sentenced to death.
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Heather Leavell Keaton, the stepmother suspected in the deaths of Natalie and Chase DeBlase who authorities say were buried in the woods, was returning to Alabama Friday from a Kentucky jail to face charges along with her common-law husband.
According to Louisville Metro Corrections spokeswoman Pam Windsor, Leavell-Keaton was being held at a Louisville jail on abuse charges before she was picked up around 1:00 a.m. Friday to be transferred back to Mobile, Ala.
The children’s father, John DeBlase, 27, told authorities that he dumped his 5-year-old daughter Natalie in the woods north of Mobile in March and discarded 3-year-old Chase’s body, dressed in only a diaper and stuffed into a plastic garbage bag, in Mississippi in June. Authorities believe the skeletal remains found in the woods of rural Mississippi Wednesday are those of the little boy, but they’re conducting tests to confirm the identity. Natalie’s body has yet to be found.
DeBlase is charged with two counts of murder, child abuse and corpse abuse in their deaths.
Police aren’t ready yet to charge Leavell-Keaton with killing either of the children, but arrest warrants in the case accuse her of abusing the young children.
According to documents, between March 1 and November 19, 2010, DeBlase allowed Leavell-Keaton to bind the girl’s hands and feet with duct tape, put a sock in her mouth and stuff her in a suitcase in a closet for about 14 hours, reports CBS affiliate WKRG.
The warrants also detail how Leavell-Keaton duct-taped the young boy’s hands to the side of his legs, strapped a broom handle to his back and shoved a sock in his mouth. The boy was then forced to stand in a corner all night while the adults went to bed.
Investigators only began searching for the bodies of Chase and Natalie just weeks ago, but police say they were last seen in March and June, respectively. Their disappearance wasn’t reported until Leavell-Keaton sought a protective order against DeBlase in Kentucky, according to Mobile police officer Chris Levy.
She said in the Nov. 18 filing that DeBlase “may have murdered his children,” and that she feared for her life because he was abusive. The couple just had a child together this summer.
“I am afraid that he is going to do something to harm our daughter because of what he as done to the other children,” she wrote.
Both DeBlase and Leavell-Keaton have accused each other for the children’s deaths.
“He’s placing the blame on Heather, and Heather’s placing the blame on him,” said Levy. “Both of them are ultimately responsible for the deaths.”
DeBlase pleaded not guilty to the lesser charges Wednesday and is due in court again Friday for a bond hearing on the murder charges. His attorney, Jim Sears, said DeBlase will plead not guilty to those charges as well.
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Arrest warrants describe the horrific abuse two young children allegedly suffered at the hands of their father and his girlfriend, including stuffing one of the children into a suitcase for 14 hours, before the children were allegedly killed by their dad.
As the grim details surrounding the children’s death surface, police have announced they believe they found the remains of 3-year-old Chase DeBlase, allegedly dumped in the Mississippi woods by his father, John Deblase, in March.
Police are also scouring woods in rural Alabama for the body of 5-year-old Natalie DeBlase, who police allege was killed and discarded by her father in June.
The arrest warrant details bizarre punishments allegedly devised for the children. It charges DeBlase with allowing his girlfriend, Heather Leavell-Keaton, to create a night-long torture for Chase while the parents went to bed.
“Allowing Heather Leavell-Keaton (his girlfriend) to duck-tape the childs hands to the side of his legs, tape a broom handle to his back, placing a sock in his mouth and duck-taping it to his mouth, then making the child stand in a corner all night when they went to bed,” the warrant says.
Police have not yet given a cause of death for Chase or Natalie although they believe the abuse played a major factor.
“We have not determined cause of death,” Assistant District Attorney Joe Beth Murphree told ABC News. “Remains found yesterday and the medical examiner is looking at remains at this time. Even if exact cause cannot be determine we believe homicide can still be proved.”
According to police Natalie was not spared the monstrous abuse doled out by DeBlase and Leavell-Keaton, his girlfriend since 2008.
A separate arrest warrant outlines that DeBlase allegedly allowed Leavell-Keaton to “duck-tape” Natalie’s hands and feet before stuffing her in a suitcase.
“Duck-tape the child’s hands and feet, place a sock in her mouth, place her inside a black suitcase and leave it inside a closet from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m.,” the warrant says.
Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd said that Chase’s body was stuffed inside a black garbage bag, wearing only a diaper, by his father close to the road because DeBlase allegedly didn’t want to get lost on his way back to his vehicle.
According to police little Chase DeBlase’s remains stayed hidden there for over six months, and for Mobile Police Officer Chris Levy, that’s one of the most troubling parts of this story.
“The fact for six months a child was dead and nobody reported it. For six months,” Levy said to ABC News today.
Levy said the birth mother and grandparents of the children have been questioned as to why they didn’t report the children missing, and according to him they gave reasons, “no good reasons,” though he said.
Equally as troubling, Levy said detectives later found a number neighbors and associates of DeBlase and Leavell-Keaton who claimed they witnessed the children being abused numerous times.
“We have all these people coming forward now who say they saw them hit the children with objects, they say they saw burns on the children that required medical attention, and nobody called the police. Where were those people a year ago when these children were actually in danger?” Levy said.
DeBlase has been charged with two-counts of murder. He has not yet entered a plea and does not yet have a lawyer. Leavell-Keaton is in jail in Kentucky, arrested on child-abuse charges, may be extradited to Alabama today, Murphree said.
Leavell-Keaton may face more serious charges.
“It’s a very intense investigation going 24/7. If murder charges can be brought, they will be brought,” Murphree said.
Police say DeBlase and Leavell-Keaton, who have an infant daughter together, are blaming each other for killing the children. Their surviving child is currently in protective custody, according to police.
According to police documents, the grisly story came to the attention of police on Nov. 18 when a family member of Leavell-Keaton allegedly told police she feared the children were dead, a report from the Louisville Police Department states.
Police contacted Leavell-Keaton, and began interviewing neighbors of associates of the couple. The report says at that point she requested a restraining order against DeBlase out of fear he may harm their infant daughter.
“I am afraid that he is going to do something to harm our daughter,” the statement says.
“I feel he may have murdered his children because he said that they were nonresponsive,” Leavell-Keaton allegedly told police according to the report.
“Choices were made this morning, and he had to do what he had to do,” Heather Leavell Keaton told police DeBlase said to her, according to the report.
According to police, the couple had moved to Louisville from Mobile several months ago.
Officer Carey Klain of the Louisville Police told ABC News that as they filed Heather Leavell Keaton’s request for a restraining order and took down her report on the children, detectives from Mobile spoke to several people who indicated they witnesses her abuse the children on numerous occasions. At that point Levy said she was arrested on charges of child abuse.
Klain said her department placed Heather Leavell Keaton in custody and the Mobile police triggered a national missing children’s report as they began to try to locate DeBlase and the children.
DeBlase was picked up on Dec. 2 in Florida. According to a report out of the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s office, DeBlase had been staying in Florida with friend Randall Melville since Nov. 30.
Mellville says he received a phone call from an associate who, according to the police report, told Melville he saw a television report about DeBlase being wanted in connection with the disappearance of his children.
“Melville said he asked John about this information which John then got up yelling ‘I didn’t do it,’ and left the residence,” the police report states.
DeBlase was picked up by police a short time later, and he again allegedly blurted out to the officers, “I didn’t do it,” the report says.
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A woman sentenced to die by a Mobile County jury will be headed back to court later this month after her sentence was overturned.
Heather Leavell-Keaton, the first woman in Mobile County history to be sent to death row, will face a hearing Oct. 13 in Mobile County Circuit Court where she will be resentenced for her 2015 capital murder conviction.
Leavell-Keaton, along with her common-law husband John DeBlase, were convicted of torturing and killing his two children, four-year-old Natalie and three-year-old Chase, in 2010.
The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals Tuesday ruled that Leavell-Keaton did not have a chance to address the court prior to her sentencing back in 2015. Leavell-Keaton displayed no emotion during her sentencing, according to a report at the time.
“To be clear, the trial court is not to hold a full capital-conviction sentencing hearing, which has already occurred,” the court ruled. Instead, the court will allow her to speak, take into consideration anything she may say, and sentence her to either death or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, the court ruled.
According to prosecutors, Natalie was choked to death in March 2010 after being duct-taped and placed in a suitcase which was set in a closet for 12 hours. Her body was later dumped in a wooded area near Citronelle.
Chase was choked to death in June 2010 when he was taped to a broom handle and left in the corner of the couple’s bedroom overnight. His body was found in the woods outside Vancleave, Miss.
Prosecutors claimed that Leavell-Keaton was jealous of Natalie and bristled when friends and family members called her a princess. Chase was killed when he asked where Natalie was