Convicted child murderer gets shot at leaving death row | Mobile County Alabama News
MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – A woman convicted of one of the most notorious crimes in southwest Alabama in the past few decades has won a new hearing.
But the Alabama appeals court’s close ruling likely means the chances of her getting off death row remain long.
Heather Leavell Keaton became the first woman in Mobile County to be sentenced to death in 2015. The then Circuit Judge Rick Stout followed the jury’s 11: 1 recommendation and pronounced the verdict. He stated that when Chase DeBlase died, it caused “unnecessary suffering and death and unexplained malice”. The jury also convicted her of reckless manslaughter in the death of Natalie DeBlase.
However, the Alabama appeals court ruled Tuesday that Stout made a mistake by not allowing Keaton to make a formal statement at the hearing. On Wednesday, Judge Brandy Hambright, who inherited Stout’s retired file, rescheduled the case for Tuesday next week.
For a defendant on death row, every victory is a welcome one. But Keaton will have limited options to change their fate.
“To be clear, the court is not supposed to hold a full conviction hearing on the capital conviction that has already taken place,” the judges wrote.
That means Keaton cannot call new witnesses or come up with new evidence to mitigate their behavior. Your chances are limited whatever she says at the new hearing. Hambright has only two options: to re-impose the death penalty or to try the accused without the possibility of parole.
At Keaton’s first trial, Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich called her a “manipulative, deceitful, and morally awkward woman”.
The facts of the case were cruel.
Authorities charged Keaton and her husband, John DeBlase, of murder after finding the bodies of DeBlase’s two young children three months apart in 2010. Natalie was 5 years old and was fatally suffocated after being taped and stuffed in a closet for several hours. Authorities found her body in the woods near Citronelle in March 2010.
In June, authorities found 3-year-old Chase’s body in a wooded area just above the Mississippi Line in Vancleave. He was reportedly taped to a broomstick and suffocated.
A woman who shared a prison cell with the defendant testified that Keaton told her she hated Natalie DeBlase and fed her and her brother spaghetti with antifreeze. Witness testimony also indicated that before the body of the second victim was dropped, the couple stopped to buy a video game – a game that now would be time to play without parental responsibility.
Co-defendant John DeBlase, convicted of two deaths in 2014, remains on death row at the Holman Correctional Facility.
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