Police: Body of missing Ala. boy believed found

By Brian Skoloff/The Associated Press

MOBILE, Ala. — Bones found Wednesday in the woods of rural Mississippi are believed to be the remains of a missing 3-year-old Alabama boy whose father told authorities he dumped the child there in March, police said.

The boy’s father, John DeBlase, 27, of Mobile, is held on charges of child abuse and corpse abuse. He has been assisting authorities in the search for his son’s body.

“Everything we found is absolutely consistent with the information he gave to us on what to look for,” Mobile Police Officer Chris Levy said Wednesday.

The bones were found by search crews Wednesday morning in the woods just off Highway 57 north of Vancleave, Miss.

Tests still need to be conducted to confirm the identity, but authorities are convinced the bones are the remains of Chase DeBlase, Levy said.

John DeBlase has also told authorities he dumped the body of his 5-year-old daughter Natalie in the woods north of Mobile in June. Her remains have not been found.

He claims they were killed by their stepmother, Heather Leavell-Keaton. She is jailed in Louisville, Ky. on child abuse charges awaiting return to Mobile. Leavell-Keaton says DeBlase poisoned them.

Their families echo each one’s allegations. Leavell-Keaton’s mother said her daughter had tried before to leave a lying, controlling man, and they suspect he poisoned the children. DeBlase’s parents, however, said they believe it was a violent and unpredictable stepmother who manipulated their son into helping cover up slayings she committed.

Still, they’re not excusing DeBlase.

“I can’t believe John is responsible for this, but I know he could have prevented it,” Deblase’s mother, Dorothy, told The Associated Press. “But if Heather told him to go jump off a bridge, he would go jump in a river.”

The finger-pointing frustrates investigators.

“What we know at this point is that they’re dead,” said Officer Chris Levy of the Mobile Police Department. “How they died is still up for determination.”

Levy added: “Both of them are ultimately responsible for the deaths.”

DeBlase was arraigned earlier Wednesday. A judge set a preliminary hearing for Jan. 4. His court-appointed attorney didn’t immediately return a telephone message. Neither suspect has yet been charged with killing the children.

Levy said witnesses told authorities both suspects beat the kids on numerous occasions.

“We have some incidents where people observed them striking the children with objects,” Levy said. “The children had some injuries that warranted medical attention which they never properly received.”

It disturbs investigators that no one came forward sooner, Levy said. Police say the boy was last seen in March and the girl in June, but their disappearances weren’t reported until authorities in Kentucky received a tip recently. Mobile police began investigating last month.