MOBILE, Ala., Dec. 14 (UPI) -- The stepmother of two slain Alabama children pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges she tortured them when they were alive and then abused their corpses.
In her first court appearance since being extradited from Kentucky, Heather Leavell-Keaton, 22, had bail set at $206,000 by a Mobile County District Court judge. She faces two counts each of aggravated child abuse and abuse of a corpse in the deaths of Natalie DeBlase, 4, and Chase DeBlase, 3.
The children were reported missing in Louisville, Ky., in November. Their bodies were subsequently found in Mississippi and Alabama.
The children's father, John DeBlase, 27, is jailed on charges he murdered them, though the couple are blaming each other, police have said.
Leavell-Keaton, who reportedly has severely limited vision, allegedly beat Natalie DeBlase with a belt and a hair brush, burned her and forced her to sit in a chair all day long, the Mobile Press-Register reported Tuesday. The stepmother also is accused of tying duct tape around the girl's hands and feet, stuffing a sock in her mouth, putting her in a suitcase and locking her in a closet for hours.
Leavell-Keaton allegedly beat the boy with a belt, burned him, snatched him by his shirt and shook him, and duct-taped him to a broomstick to force him to stand up straight all night.
Complaints against DeBlase alleged he watched as she tortured the children without stopping her.