LOUISVILLE, Ky. (CBS/WKRG/AP) 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.