Monday, February 14, 2011

Investigator: Custodial dad, step poisoned kids with antifreeze because they wanted fewer responsibilities (Mobile, Alabama)

Recall from previous new stories--some of which are posted here--that dad JOHN DEBLASE seized custody of these children from their mother, and then refused to let her visit them. Now it seems this daddy--and his charming new wife--didn't really want these kids at all. They wanted their "own family." The decent thing would have been to send them back to their Mom. But sadists who torture and poison children aren't interested in the decent thing, are they? The research literature suggests that fathers who go after custody are more often interested in revenge against the mother and power/control than parenting time with their children. And this case is a great illustration of that.

Notice how the custody back story behind these murders is slowly getting erased by the media....

DeBlase children slowly poisoned to death with anti-freeze, investigator testifies
Published: Monday, February 14, 2011, 10:03 AM
Updated: Monday, February 14, 2011, 11:20 AM
By Katherine Sayre, Press-Register

MOBILE, Alabama -- The stepmother to Natalie and Chase DeBlase slowly poisoned the young children with antifreeze by pouring it into their food in an effort to kill them and have less responsibilities, a Mobile police detective testified this morning.

Heather Leavell-Keaton, 22, is charged with two counts of capital murder in the deaths of Natalie, 4, and Chase, 3, who were the children of her common-law husband, John DeBlase.

The siblings were reported missing in November, and they hadn't been seen in months. Investigators discovered Chase’s remains in a wooded area near Vancleave in coastal Mississippi on Dec. 8, and Natalie’s body was found near Citronelle in north Mobile County 3 days later.

In a preliminary hearing this morning, Mobile police Detective Angela Prine testified that Keaton, while in Mobile County Metro Jail, confessed to the killings to another jail inmate.

According to the detective, Roseanna Russell was assigned in jail to help Keaton, who is legally blind, and Keaton started talking about the case.

Keaton said that she and John DeBlase first poisoned their dog with anti-freeze "to see how long it would take to kill a living thing," Prine said.

When asked why they wanted to kill the children, Keaton said "it would be better if they had less responsibilities" and that "her and John wanted to have their own family," the detective said.

The couple bought gallons of antifreeze at Walmart, Keaton said, and both children slowly got more sick, including vomiting, Prine said.

Natalie died on March 4 after she was placed in a bathtub, Prine said, and they dumped her body. They stopped poisoning Chase for a few months, but decided that he would be a "liability" after he started crying and asking for his missing sister in front of other people, according to testimony.

On June 20, Chase got very sick and died, Prine said.

On the way to dump his body in Mississippi, Keaton said she and John DeBlase stopped at a video game store to buy 2 games because they didn't have any more responsibilities, according to the detective. Prine said that the stepmother also recounted several incidents of torture and abuse the children suffered.

Keaton was jealous of Natalie, according to the detective, and she burned her with cigarettes and hot candle wax, pulled out her hair in clumps, and beat her with a fly swatter. On the day she died, Natalie was locked inside a suitcase, which was sitting in their kitchen as her father cooked, according to the detective.

John DeBlase faces two counts of felony murder and 2 counts of abuse of a corpse in connection with his children's deaths.

Keaton's defense attorney, Richard Horne, attempted to call DeBlase to the witness stand to testify in the hearing. DeBlase briefly appeared in court, but he involved his constitutional right to remain silent.

After the hearing, Horne said the allegations are "horrible events, if my client committed those things."

"I still do not believe for a minute that she committed these crimes," Horne said. "I believe that was her husband's doing, not her ... I don't know what her level of awareness was, but she's not the kind of person who would do something like this. She is functionally blind and some of this stuff would be physically impossible for her to accomplish."

Horne said he believes that DeBlase made an agreement with the prosecution to cooperate in the case. Prosecutors said that the charges are based on the evidence.

At the end of the hearing, Mobile County Circuit Judge Rick Stout ruled there was enough evidence to send the capital murder charges to a grand jury.

Mobile County Assistant District Attorney Jo Beth Murphree said Russell, the inmate who says she heard Keaton confess, was in jail for about two weeks on a theft by deception charge, but Russell had no charges pending against her when she talked to investigators and was not offered anything in exchange for her testimony.

Murphree said the information provided by Russell led them to upgrade the charges against Keaton to capital murder.

Capital murder is punishable by life in prison without parole or the death penalty.