Mother of autistic boy, her boyfriend charged with manslaughter

4-year-old died last November; younger sibling also showed signs of injury

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

MACCLENNY, Fla. - Baker County prosecutors have upgraded the charges against a Baker County mother and her boyfriend in the death of a 4-year-old autistic boy to manslaughter.

Heather Stevenson's son, Chance Vanderpool, died in November, after her boyfriend, Jonathan Todd Register, reported finding Chance not breathing the morning of Nov. 22 and told deputies he performed CPR until paramedics arrived. The boy died at the Ed Frazier Hospital.

Chance’s 2-year-old old brother also was taken to the hospital after investigators saw dried blood on his nostrils. They also saw several healing scabs on his head, blood in his diaper, bruises on his back and stomach and more on his cheek that look like someone grabbed him, the report said.

Stevenson, 33, and Register, 30, had previously been charged with aggravated child abuse and child neglect in connection with her 2-year-old son. The manslaughter and conspiracy to commit manslaughter charges were added last month

According to the original arrest report, investigators found several old injuries on Chance's body, including bruises on his lower back and upper buttocks, swelling and bruising to his nose, eyes and forehead, and a “large cigar-size” burn on his left foot.

Stevenson told investigators in November that Chance 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 Jacksonville, where he stayed for three days. She also said the 4-year-old boy hit his head in the shower recently. 

Deputies continued to investigate how Chance died. Stevenson was arrested on Feb. 9 on charges connected to the 2-year-old boy's injuries. She is held on a $1.5 million bond.

The Florida Department of Children and Families took Chance's siblings into state custody and opened an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the child's death.

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