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Most scams, such as sub-prime mortgages and email scams, victimize adults. But custody scams victimize children. When government fails to protect children it throws open the doors to private contractors—lawyers and clinicians—who enrich themselves at the expense of children. (More about this child and the mother who tried to protect her appears below.)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Custody decision gone bad

Stepfather of missing children speaks
Jonah Heathcock tries to stay optimistic

Updated: Sunday, 05 Dec 2010, 1:47 PM CST
Published : Saturday, 04 Dec 2010, 10:14 PM CST

Paige Malone
MOBILE, Ala. - UPDATE: A search for the bodies of three-year-old Johnathan DeBlase and his four-year-old sister, Natalie continues today. This time at a second locaton in Mobile County according to Mobile Police Department.

Search teams began the second search in an area in the western part of the county. Stay with Fox 10 News. We have a crew on the scene and will keep you updated as information is released.

After hours of searching, police still have not found the bodies of three-year-old Johnathan DeBlase and his four-year-old sister Natalie.

Friday, their father, John DeBlase was arrested and told police the children are buried within a 100- mile radius of Mobile. Even after this news, their birth
mother and stepfather are trying to stay optimistic.

On November 19, police began searching for the missing children. Two weeks later, John DeBlase and his wife were arrested.

"My hope actually went up a notch with them having him," Corrine Heathcock, the children's mother told Fox 10 News earlier this week.

Not long after the interview, Heathcock and her husband Jonah Heathcock got some shocking news. DeBlase revealed to police that Jonathan and Natalie were dead.

"It was an eruption of tears. We just held each other as tightly as possible and cried like crazy. Called friends, called family," said Jonah Heathcock.

After hearing the news, Corrine Heathcock said, "Our hope is that they are found alive and well."

The search for the bodies began early Saturday morning and the Heathcock family was on edge all day.

"I'm just waiting for that phone call from a police officer to either call us or come up here and say we found them," said Jonah Heathcock.

Heathcock said they have been focusing on the good times they had with Jonathan and Natalie instead of looking toward a grim reality.

Today, memories of little Jonathan came to mind.

"He couldn't say hot dogs. He'd say dot dogs, so this morning I woke up with dot dogs on my mind."

Jonah and Corrine have not seen the children in over a year. They said DeBlase was granted custody because they could not provide the environment the children deserved.

"He called his son prince he called his daughter princess. At this point, I don't see where he could call them that anymore," said Heathcock.

Now, they wish they would have fought harder for the children and have a message for DeBlase.

"I do have one thing to say to John, if you know where they are, you say you don't know, but I know you do. Tell them where they are. You say you don't remember, you do. And if you don't, Heather does. So one of you better tell them where they are so we can put closure to this thing"

Police narrowed the search down to the area just north of Vancleave, Mississippi. The search will continue early Sunday morning.

DeBlase is being held in Mobile Metro Jail on two counts of aggravated child abuse and two counts of aggravated assault of a corpse.

His wife, Heather Keaton, is being held in Louisville, Kentucky on two counts of willful abuse of a child. Police say she will be extradited to Mobile within a week.

About the mother and child pictured at the top

On February 21, 1992, Rhode Island Family Court's Chief Judge Jeremiah Jeremiah gave this two-year-old to the sole custody and possession of her father despite his history of domestic violence and failure to pay child support. The father, a police officer, brought false charges against his ex-wife, first saying she was a drug addict. (Twenty-two random tests proved she was not.) Then he had her arrested for bank fraud, then for filing a false report, then for sexual abuse, then for kidnapping. None of his charges stuck.

The child remained with her father and stepmother until 2003, when, at 14, she finally realized that her mother had not been a drug addict. The teenager persuaded Judge Stephen Capineri to let her return to her mother. There she began working on the painful issues of lifelong coercion and deception--a tangled knot of guilt and rage. Most painful has been her father’s continuing refusal to let her visit two dearly loved half-sisters, whom she has not seen since 2003.

She is one of countless children in Rhode Island subjected to severe emotional and physical trauma by Family Court when it helps abusive parents to maintain control over their families after divorce. When she turned 18 in 2007, she gave the Parenting Project permission to publish her picture on behalf of all children who have been held hostage by Rhode Island custody scams.

We are using this blog to provide links to stories that will help concerned people, including government officials, become aware of this form of child abuse and legal abuse. We must work together to improve the courts' ability to recognize the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in victims of domestic abuse who are trying to protect their children.

PLEASE NOTE: If you are looking for the story of the removal of "Molly and Sara," please visit

About the Author and the Cause

Parenting Project is a volunteer community service begun in 1996 at Mathewson Street United Methodist Church, Providence, RI, to focus on the needs of children at risk in Family Court custody cases. Our goal is to make Rhode Island's child protective system more effective, transparent, and accountable.

The Parenting Project coordinator, Anne Grant, a retired minister and former executive director of Rhode Island's largest shelter for battered women and their children, researches and writes about official actions that endanger children and the parents who try to protect them. She wrote a chapter on Rhode Island in Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Child Custody: Legal Strategies and Policy Issues, ed. Mo Therese Hannah, PhD, and Barry Goldstein, JD (Civic Research Institute, 2010).

Comments and corrections on anything written here may be sent in an email with no attachments to

Find out more about the crisis in custody courts here: provides forensic resources to end violence against women

about domestic violence in hague custody cases:

more about domestic violence in law enforcement: