Baker County couple charged with manslaughter in autistic boy's death

Baker County Sheriff's Office booking photos of Heather Stevenson and Jonathan Register
Baker County Sheriff's Office booking photos of Heather Stevenson and Jonathan Register

A Baker County couple now faces manslaughter charges in connection with the death of the woman's 4-year-old son who died last year.

Chance Vanderpool, who was autistic, died in November after he was taken to Ed Fraser Memorial Hospital in Macclenny with a range of injuries including bruising and a large burn, according to the Sheriff's Office.

The child's mother, 33-year-old Heather Naomi Stevenson, was initially charged in February with aggravated child abuse and child neglect related to injuries Chance's younger sibling suffered.

Stevenson's boyfriend, 30-year-old Jonathan Todd Register, was charged with aggravated child abuse and aggravated battery.

Last month, prosecutors filed charges of manslaughter and conspiracy to commit manslaughter against the couple, court records show. A judge set bond at $2.5 million for both.

Register reported Chance wasn't breathing when he found him the morning of Nov. 22, according to a deputy's report. He said he performed CPR on the child until paramedics arrived. The boy did not survive.

Chance's 2-year-old brother also was hospitalized after investigators reported finding dried blood on his nostrils, several scabs on his head, blood in his diaper and bruising on his back and stomach, the report said.

The 4-year-old boy had a slew of existing injuries, including bruises on his lower back and buttocks, swelling and bruising on his face and a "large cigar-size" burn on his left foot, according to the original report.

Stevenson told investigators that Chance suffered a head injury when a dog knocked him down some stairs in October. She said he was taken to UF Health Jacksonville. She also said he'd hit his head in the shower.

The Department of Children and Families took Chance's siblings into state custody in February and opened an investigation into his death.