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Shocking Abuse Detailed in Ala. Child Murders

An Alabama man charged with murdering his two children and dumping their bodies allowed their stepmother to bind them with duct tape for hours and shove socks in their mouths, according to arrest warrants.

The warrants say the abuse led to their deaths, though authorities haven't yet determined how they were killed.

John DeBlase was charged with two counts of murder on Wednesday after police found remains believed to be his 3-year-old son, Chase, in Mississippi. He told police he dumped the bodies of the boy and his sister, 5-year-old Natalie, in wooded areas in two states and covered them in twigs and brush. The girl's remains haven't been found.

Days before the murder charges were filed, warrants detailing the children's mistreatment were prepared when DeBlase was arrested on child abuse charges.

The documents say DeBlase allowed the children's stepmother, Heather Leavell-Keaton, to bind the girl's hands and feet with duct tape, put a sock in her mouth and leave her in a suitcase in a closet for about 14 hours.

According to the warrants, Leavell-Keaton also duct-taped the boy's hands to the side of his legs, taped a broom handle to his back and shoved a sock in his mouth, also covering it with duct tape. The boy was then forced to stand in a corner all night while the adults went to bed.

The documents don't specify when the abuse occurred, only saying it happened sometime after March 1.

Leavell-Keaton is held in Kentucky on child abuse charges and awaiting return to Alabama, where she could be charged in the children's slayings. Police have said she and Deblase shared responsibility for their deaths.

Each one blames the other for killing the children.

DeBlase and Leavell-Keaton were arrested last week on abuse charges, and authorities began their search for the children's remains in Alabama and Mississippi over the weekend. Neither child had been seen for months.

An investigation into their disappearance didn't start until late last month after Leavell-Keaton sought a protective order against DeBlase in Kentucky, said 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 has done to the other children," she wrote.

DeBlase, 27, has been assisting police in the search for the bodies. He told police he dumped his daughter's body in the woods north of Mobile in June, and the boy's body in March.

Levy said a boy's bones were found Wednesday under twigs and brush in an area known to have bears, coyotes and vultures. Tests are being conducted to confirm the identity, but Levy said investigators are confident they are Chase's remains.

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