BAKER COUNTY, Fla. - Deputies are investigating the death of a 4-year-old child with autism in Baker County.
The Baker County Sheriff's Office responded Tuesday to reports of an unresponsive child at a home on Cedar Creek Farms Road.
The child, Chance Vanderpool, was found around 8:30 a.m. unresponsive by the mother's boyfriend, Jonathan Register, after he went to try and awaken the child. He put the child in the bathtub and sprayed him with water before telling the boy's mother, who called for help, authorities said.
Register is accused of child abuse of Chance's sibling. Register is charged with aggravated battery and cruelty towards a child. A judge set his bail at $2 million.
Chance was taken to a hospital, where he later died.
Officials said the boy had suffered a recent skull fracture to the front right forehead. Register told authorities that Chance was at the hospital for three days for a skull fracture and was released. He told deputies that Chance had been different since the accident and that he had good days and bad days.
Officials said Chance had several injuries, including bruising to his upper buttocks and lower back, a small scab on the forehead and swelling and bruising to his nose, eyes and forehead. Officials also noted a large cigar-size injury on the top of his foot and other bruises all over his body.
Chance was treated in October at UF Health Jacksonville for a head injury, which was reportedly caused when a dog knocked him down the stairs. The Florida Department of Children and Families ruled the injury accidental.
Chance's injuries and cause of death are still under investigation.
Chance's 2-year-old brother was also taken to the hospital. Officials said the brother had several injuries, including dried blood around his nose, several scabs on his head and what appeared to be a finger bruises and thumb bruise on his face.
The boy was treated for a broken arm and a skull fracture in Jacksonville after visiting his father in Georgia, officials said. However, his mother said the boy was with Register before the trip to Georgia.
Register didn't allow the children's mother to change diapers or potty train, because he told her that she wasn't aggressive enough, officials said. She said Register spanked the children if they had an accident.
The mother told officials that she tried to leave twice and was not allowed to go. Her cellphone was taken away and she wasn't allowed to see her parents, officials said.
The mother told officials that the children didn't have any injuries other than an earache before she moved in with Register.
Deputies arrested Register for aggravated child abuse and aggravated battery.
The investigation is ongoing.
The Florida Department of Children and Families' Secretary Mike Carroll released this statement late Wednesday:
“Chance’s death weighs heavy on my heart today and I am deeply saddened by this tragedy. Chances siblings have been taken into our care and we will work with our local partners to provide them with counseling services during this difficult time.
We have opened an investigation into Chance’s death and will work with law enforcement to review all aspects of this case. Although there were not verified cases of abuse or neglect for this family, I have ordered an in-depth quality assurance review to examine what actions were taken and how we can improve the services we provide to families in crisis to prevent these tragedies.”
We will coordinate with law enforcement to thoroughly investigate this case. As the investigation is ongoing, records remain confidential at this time per section 39.202, Florida Statutes. Records become public only when it is verified that the death was a result of abuse or neglect. Upon completion of the death investigation, a report will be posted on the department's child fatality prevention website."
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