Man accused of abusing 2-year-old after sibling dies

Jonathan Register arrested after death of girlfriend's 4-year-old autistic son

By Jenese Harris - Reporter/anchor , News4Jax.com Staff

BAKER COUNTY, Fla. - A man accused of abusing his girlfriend's 2-year-old son was arrested Wednesday after an investigation began into death of the child's 4-year-old autistic brother, according to the Baker County Sheriff's Office. 

Jonathan Register is charged with aggravated child abuse and aggravated battery as the result of an investigation into injuries found on the 4-year-old's young brother, the Sheriff's Office said. 

Register told deputies he went to check on the 4-year-old boy about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday and found him unresponsive. Register said he then carried the boy to the guest house and tried to wake him up by splashing water on his lower body.

When the boy didn't respond, he told deputies he woke up the boy's mother, Heather Stevenson. She said she called 911 and tried CPR on her son until rescue crews arrived. 

The 4-year-old was taken to Ed Fraser Memorial Hospital in Macclenny, where died, deputies said. Doctors had discovered the boy had a skull fracture, according to the Sheriff's Office.

The manner and cause of the 4-year-old boy’s death are under investigation.

The boy's mother told investigators her 4-year-old son suffered a head injury when he was knocked down a flight of stairs by a dog in October. She said they took him to UF Health, where he stayed for three days. She also said the 4-year-old boy hit his head in the shower recently. He was scheduled for a follow-up appointment Wednesday. 

While investigation the death of the 4-year-old, deputies said they noticed bruises on the head and body on Stevenson's 2-year-old son and arrested Register. 

"Statements and testimony from witnesses and other people about how he treated her children, how strict he was and what he did to the children is what led us to where we're at," said BCSO Lt. Brad Dougherty. "The family, they are going through a difficult time. The mother is working with us, as well as the grandparents. But they are devastated." 

Investigators said Register had been living with his girlfriend and her two children for less than half a year.

"He just moved in with the family 5 months ago and took over the responsibilities of being the caretaker," Dougherty said. 

Register made his first appearance in court Wednesday. The state attorney's office asked the judge to set Register's bond at $1 million for each count. The judge agreed. 

According to court records, Register has been convicted on assault charges three times since 2005. 

Register is expected to make his next court appearance at the beginning of December. 

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