Mother of autistic boy who died last year charged with abuse, neglect

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

By Erik Avanier - Reporter
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Baker County Sheriff's Office booking photo of Heather Stevenson

MACCLENNY, Fla. - A Baker County woman whose 4-year-old autistic son died last year has been charged with aggravated child abuse and child neglect in connection with her 2-year-old son.

Heather Stevenson's son, Chance Vanderpool, died in November.

His mother's boyfriend, Jonathan Todd Register, reported finding Chance not breathing the morning of Nov. 22 and told deputies he performed CPR until paramedics arrived. Chance died at Ed Frasier Memorial 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.

Register was later charged with aggravated child abuse and aggravated battery in connection to the younger boy's injuries.

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, 32, 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, 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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