Arrests made for the death of 4-year-old autistic boy in Baker

Heather Crawford anchors. 2/20/2017

Four-year-old Chance Vanderpool, from Baker County, was rushed to the hospital on Tuesday where he was later pronounced dead.

Heather Stevenson, Vanderpool's mother, and her boyfriend, Jonathan Register, have been arrested on charges of child abuse, neglect and battery.

A police report states that Register had to be taken in for questioning after both he and Vanderpool's mother, Heather Stevenson, were questioned together and he wouldn't allow Stevenson to talk.

The report goes on to say that Vanderpool was put to bed downstairs the night before the incident and seemed to be fine. At around 3-3:30 a.m., Register went to check on Vanderpool and when he applied pressure to Vanderpool's nose to wipe it, the child cried out.

Stevenson corroborated this story, saying that the cry from her child had woken her up. However, both adults went back to sleep. 

The next morning, Register, after taking care of Vanderpool's 2-year-old brother, went to wake Vanderpool for the morning and found him to be unresponsive.

He took him to the restroom and put him into the shower to shower him off in an attempt to wake him up. He then told Stevenson there was something the matter with Vanderpool when he did not wake, before he put the boy back into the shower in a second attempt to wake him up.

Stevenson began CPR on Vanderpool and Register called 911.

Register also told police that he had only once spanked one of the boys once time for hitting the other boy in the head with a toy truck. Register said that Vanderpool had ben hit in the head with the toy truck, however his 2-year-old brother was the one with healing scab wounds on his head.

Vanderpool was not without marks of further trauma, however. He had bruising to his upper rear and lower back, a small healing scab on the front right side of his forehead, swelling and purplish and yellowish bruising to his nose, eyes and forehead, as well as bruises located all over his body, according to the report.

He also had a cigar-sized injury that was said to be "consistent with a burn" on the top of his left foot. 

The origin of the injury on Vanderpool's foot seems to be a mystery. The story from Register was that it occurred when Vanderpool fell out of the truck in an attempt to get out of it to greet his grandparents.

Stevenson said she was there when he got out of the truck and she caught him and does not recall him injuring himself at all.

The report goes on to say that Register expressed that he was upset that a hospital that Vanderpool had been taken to had released him just after three days, despite having a skull fracture. 

In October of 2016, Vanderpool was seen at UF Health for a head injury that was said to be a result of a 40-pound dog knocking the boy down the stairs. The Department of Children and Families ruled this to be an accidental injury. Stevenson witnessed this happen, she said Register was not home at the time.

Register said since this day, Vanderpool would stare into space a lot and have both good and bad days.

Vanderpool's brother had also been seen for for bruising and injuries. He was taken to the hospital for what appeared to be dried blood around his nostrils, blood on the top of his head where he had several healing scabs and blood in his diaper.

He has enlarged testicles and a puncture wound a quarter - half an inch in size, bruising on his lower and upper rear, stomach and what was said in the report to appear to be finger bruises on his left cheek and a thumb bruise on his right, which would be consistent with someone grabbing the boy's face.

Vanderpool's younger brother had also been seen in Jacksonville for a skull fracture and a broken arm after seeing his father in Georgia. Register was with the boy before he left for this trip, according to Stevenson. The mother of the two boys told police that neither boy had ever had more than an ear ache before she moved in with Register. She also stated that she was has not been present for any of the other injuries with the exception of the dog incident with Vanderpool from October of 2016, and the shower incident which predicated his death.

She also said that Register told her she wasn't allowed to help with potty training or changing diapers because she wasn't "aggressive enough." She stated that Register would spank the boys if they had an accident. She said it was this reason that she tried to leave Register twice, but he would not let her. Stevenson said she wasn't allowed to visit her family, he had taken away her cell phone, and he wouldn't allow her to take her 2-year-old son to the doctor for his injury.

Secretary Mike Caroll of DCF released a lengthy statement regarding Vanderpool's death. Carroll says he's deeply saddened by the passing of the young child. The child's siblings have been taken into DCF's car and Carroll says that his office will work with local partners to make sure the children get the counseling services they need.

The rest of his statement is as follows:

We have opened an investigation into Chance’s death and will work with law enforcement to review all aspects of this case.  Although there were not verified cases of abuse or neglect for this family, I have ordered an in-depth quality assurance review to examine what actions were taken and how we can improve the services we provide to families in crisis to prevent these tragedies.”

We will coordinate with law enforcement to thoroughly investigate this case. As the investigation is ongoing, records remain confidential at this time per section 39.202, Florida Statutes. Records become public only when it is verified that the death was a result of abuse or neglect. Upon completion of the death investigation, a report will be posted on the department's child fatality prevention website.

The boy's manner of death is currently being investigated. This is all the information given by the Baker County Sheriff's Office. This is an ongoing story, stay with First Coast News for updates.

© 2017 WTLV-TV


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment
More Stories