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Thread: Heather Leavell-Keaton - Alabama Death Row

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    Heather Leavell-Keaton - Alabama Death Row






    Bail denied for stepmother accused of torturing and killing DeBlase children

    MOBILE, Alabama -- A judge this morning denied bail for the stepmother of Natalie and Chase DeBlase, who is accused of torturing and killing the 4-year-old and 3-year-old siblings.

    Heather Leavell-Keaton was charged late Friday with 2 counts of capital murder. She was already in jail facing two counts of aggravated child abuse and two counts of abuse of a corpse.

    Her common-law husband, John DeBlase, faces 2 counts of felony murder and 2 counts of abuse of a corpse in connection with his children's deaths. The children were reported missing, and possibly dead, on Nov. 18. They hadnt been seen in months.

    Investigators discovered Chases remains in a wooded area near Vancleave in coastal Mississippi on Dec. 8, and Natalies body was found near Citronelle in north Mobile County 3 days later.

    District Judge George Hardesty denied bail during a brief hearing. Capital murder is punishable by life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

    Prosecutors said they decided to bring capital murder charges against Leavell-Keaton after receiving new information on Friday. But prosecutors declined to give any details about that information.

    Earlier on Friday, Mobile police testified that the DeBlase and Leavell-Keaton have blamed each other for the killings. DeBlase claims the children died after suffering abuse at the hands of their stepmother, while Leavell-Keaton says the children were poisoned by their father, according to testimony.

    DeBlase is being held in jail on $506,000 bail.

    http://blog.al.com/live/2011/01/judg..._stepmoth.html

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    Stepmom of DeBlase children pleads not guilty to capital murder

    Heather Leavell-Keaton pleaded not guilty to capital murder today in connection with the deaths of her two young stepchildren.

    Natalie DeBlase, 4, and Chase DeBlase 3, were reported missing, and possibly dead, in November, and police learned that the children's biological mother in Mobile hadn't seen them in over a year.

    Investigators discovered Chases remains in a wooded area near Vancleave in coastal Mississippi on Dec. 8, and Natalies body was found near Citronelle in north Mobile County three days later.

    The children's father, John DeBlase, is charged with two counts of murder and two counts of abuse of a corpse.

    Leavell-Keaton, DeBlase's common-law wife, is also charged with aggravated child abuse and abuse of a corpse. She is being held in Mobile County Metro Jail with no bail.

    Leavell-Keaton, who is legally blind, was led into the courtroom by a sheriff's deputy.

    DeBlase and Leavell-Keaton have blamed each other for the deaths of the children, according to earlier police testimony. Leavell-Keaton told police that she believed their father poisoned them, but DeBlase says Leavell-Keaton abused them to death.

    According to police, several people have come forward and described witnessing abuse of the children at the hands of Leavell-Keaton, including beatings and starvation.

    Mobile County Circuit Judge Rick Stout set a preliminary hearing for Feb. 14.

    Stout also appointed attorneys Richard Horne and Jim Vollmer to represent her in the capital murder cases.

    Capital murder is punishable by life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

    http://blog.al.com/live/2011/01/step...ildren_pl.html

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    DeBlase children slowly poisoned to death with anti-freeze, investigator testifies

    MOBILE, Alabama -- The stepmother to Natalie and Chase DeBlase slowly poisoned the young children with antifreeze by pouring it into their food in an effort to kill them and have less responsibilities, a Mobile police detective testified this morning.

    Heather Leavell-Keaton, 22, is charged with two counts of capital murder in the deaths of Natalie, 4, and Chase, 3, who were the children of her common-law husband, John DeBlase.

    The siblings were reported missing in November, and they hadn't been seen in months. Investigators discovered Chases remains in a wooded area near Vancleave in coastal Mississippi on Dec. 8, and Natalies body was found near Citronelle in north Mobile County three days later.

    In a preliminary hearing this morning, Mobile police Detective Angela Prine testified that Keaton, while in Mobile County Metro Jail, confessed to the killings to another jail inmate.

    According to the detective, Roseanna Russell was assigned in jail to help Keaton, who is legally blind, and Keaton started talking about the case.

    Keaton said that she and John DeBlase first poisoned their dog with anti-freeze "to see how long it would take to kill a living thing," Prine said.

    When asked why they wanted to kill the children, Keaton said "it would be better if they had less responsibilities" and that "her and John wanted to have their own family," the detective said.

    The couple bought gallons of antifreeze at Walmart, the detective said, and they cooked their own meals separately from the children's meals.

    John DeBlase would pour the antifreeze into a cup, and Leavell-Keaton then added it to the children's food, the detective said.

    Both children slowly got more sick, including vomiting and other signs of organ failure.

    Natalie died on March 4 after she was placed in a bathtub, Prine said, and they dumped her body near Citronelle.

    For a few months, they stopped poisoning Chase for a few months, but decided that he would be a "liability" after he started crying and asking for his missing sister in front of other people, according to testimony.

    On June 20, Chase got very sick and died, Prine said.

    On the way to dump his body in Mississippi, Keaton said she and John DeBlase stopped at a video game store to buy two games because they didn't have any more responsibilities, according to the detective.

    Prine said that the stepmother also recounted several incidents of torture and abuse the children suffered.

    Keaton was jealous of Natalie, according to the detective, and she burned her with cigarettes and hot candle wax, pulled out her hair in clumps, and beat her with a fly swatter.

    On the day she died, Natalie was locked inside a suitcase, which was sitting in their kitchen as her father cooked, according to the detective.

    John DeBlase faces two counts of felony murder and two counts of abuse of a corpse in connection with his children's deaths.

    Keaton's defense attorney, Richard Horne, attempted to call DeBlase to the witness stand to testify in the hearing. DeBlase briefly appeared in court, but he invoked his constitutional right to remain silent.

    After the hearing, Horne said the allegations are "horrible events, if my client committed those things."

    "I still do not believe for a minute that she committed these crimes," Horne said. "I believe that was her husband's doing, not her ... I don't know what her level of awareness was, but she's not the kind of person who would do something like this. She is functionally blind and some of this stuff would be physically impossible for her to accomplish."

    Horne said he believes that DeBlase made an agreement with the prosecution to cooperate in the case. Prosecutors said that the charges are based on the evidence.

    At the end of the hearing, Mobile County Circuit Judge Rick Stout ruled there was enough evidence to send the capital murder charges to a grand jury.

    Prine testified that Russell, the inmate who says she heard Leavell-Keaton confess, was in jail for about two weeks on a theft charge, but Russell had no charges pending against her when she talked to investigators.

    Mobile County Assistant District Attorney Jo Beth Murphree said Russell was not offered anything in exchange for her testimony, and the information she provided led the prosecution to bring the capital murder charges in January. Leavell-Keaton was already in jail on charges of aggravated child abuse and abuse of a corpse.

    Capital murder is punishable by life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

    http://blog.al.com/live/2011/02/mobi..._children.html

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    DeBlase case: Father, stepmother of slain children plead not guilty to capital murder

    MOBILE, Alabama -- A couple accused of torturing and poisoning two children to death pleaded not guilty by mental disease in court this afternoon.

    A judge ordered that a state forensic psychologist evaluate John DeBlase, the childrens father.

    His common-law wife, Heather Leveall-Keaton, has already been evaluated although a report has not yet been completed, court officials said.

    DeBlase, 27, and Leavell-Keaton, 22, are charged with capital murder in the deaths of 4-year-old Natalie DeBlase and 3-year-old Chase DeBlase.

    Investigators in December found the siblings bodies dumped in separate wooded areas in Mississippi and Alabama one month after they were reported missing.

    In arraignment hearings Wednesday, DeBlase who appeared to have dramatically lost weight while in jail and Leavell-Keaton entered pleas of not guilty or not guilty by reason of mental disease or mental defect.

    Both are being held in Mobile County Metro Jail, although they are driven to court separately and kept apart.

    Defense attorney Jim Sears said that DeBlase has mental health problems, but he declined to be more specific.

    A Mobile County grand jury last week upgraded charges against the father from felony murder to capital murder.

    Sears said that DeBlase found out about the new charges in jail watching the local news on TV.

    Hes heartbroken that his children are dead, Sears said. He was very firm in saying he had nothing to do with the death of his children.

    Indictments allege that DeBlase and Leavell-Keaton intentionally killed the children by poisoning and/or asphyxiation and/or starvation and/or dehydration.

    If convicted of capital murder, the defendants would face the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

    Leavell-Keaton also faces two counts of aggravated child abuse. She is accused of burning, scratching, beating and starving the children.

    District Attorney Ashley Rich said on Wednesday that there is no evidence indicating that the couple are insane.

    Rich wouldnt comment when asked whether prosecutors could say exactly how the children died.

    In previous court hearings, police have said that Leavell-Keaton slowly poisoned the children by pouring antifreeze into their food because she no longer wanted to be responsible for raising them.

    Police said Natalie, whose body was found near Citronelle, died in March 2010, and Chase, whose body was found near Vancleave, Miss., died in June 2010.

    http://blog.al.com/live/2011/08/fath...slain_deb.html

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    20 motions heard in Deblase case

    A hearing wrapped up Thursday in the case of Chase and Natalie Deblase. Its a story that shook the Gulf Coast.

    Investigators said the two young children were tortured, poisoned and then dumped in wooded areas. Their father, John Deblase, and his common law wife Heather Keaton have been charged with capital murder.

    The pair pleaded not guilty by reason of mental defect last August.

    Judge Roderick Stout heard more than 20 pretrial motions. Both Deblase and Keaton were in the courtroom.

    Deblase, sitting beside his legal team, was visibly trembling throughout the hearing.

    Jim Sears, his attorney said he caught a bug in jail.

    Most of the motion dealt with the jury selection process. Sears said they want to make sure they have a fair chance moving forward.

    "We are looking forward to having a fair trial and getting his side out, said Sears.

    Another motion filed was to dismiss one count. In the original indictments, one count was listed twice, just worded differently. Both agreed to the change.

    District Attorney Ashley Rich said this wont have an effect on the trial or possible sentence.

    Rich said Thursday was a step forward to a much anticipated trial.

    "Its been a long time, and were very anxious to get this case so that we can get a resolution of this matter and we and put it to rest. All the citizens in Mobile County are concerned, and we just want to make sure that we get this case tried and get it to a jury," said Rich.

    Because of the ruling on the indictment, the case has to return to a grand jury where re-indictment is expected.

    Keaton and Deblase will be tried separately. Deblase will be tried in October, and Keatons trial is set to begin in January. Both face the death penalty.

    http://www.fox10tv.com/dpp/news/loca...n-deblase-case
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    Edited:

    Woman charged in 2010 killings of DeBlase children wants her trial moved from Mobile County


    MOBILE, Alabama -- A woman whose common-law husband was sentenced to death last week in the killing of his children wants her trial in the deaths moved out of Mobile County.

    The attorneys for Heather Leavell-Keaton, 26, filed an eight-page change of venue motion on her behalf last week. The motion says that pretrial publicity in the case has made it impossible to seat an impartial jury in Mobile County.

    Leavell-Keaton is accused in the torture and killings of siblings Natalie DeBlase, 4, and Chase DeBlase, 3. Natalie was dumped in woods near Citronelle on March 4, 2010, and Chase was disposed of June 20, 2010, north of Vancleave, Miss.

    Leavell-Keaton's capital murder trial is slated to start in late April. If convicted, Leavell-Keaton can be sentenced to life in prison without parole or death.

    Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich said her office plans to oppose Leavell-Keaton's effort to have her trial moved.

    "We are arguing admittedly that we can get a jury here in Mobile County," Rich said last week. "We got a jury in Lam Luong. We can get a jury in this case."

    Luong was found guilty in 2009
    in the deaths of his four children and was sentenced to death. The children were thrown off a bridge on Jan. 7, 2008.

    The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals in 2013 overturned the conviction and death sentence, ruling in part that Mobile County Circuit Judge Charles Graddick erred when he didn't grant a defense request to move the trial to another county because of extensive pretrial publicity. In 2014, the Alabama Supreme Court reinstated Luong's conviction and the death sentence.

    Leavell-Keaton's motion notes that there has been extensive media coverage of the deaths of Natalie and Chase, including news reports about DeBlase's trial.

    "Coverage of the DeBlase trial journeyed far beyond factual accounts and included opinions from the state prosecuting attorney and even witnesses as to the guilt of the defendant," according to the motion.

    The motion also points out that the defense's strategy in DeBlase's trial was to blame the children's deaths on Leavell-Keaton. The motion includes links to television and AL.com stories that were produced during the trial.

    "The result has been the dissemination of irrelevant, inadmissible and prejudicial information that has irreparably damaged the potential jury pool for the above styled case," the motion states.

    The motion also lists several reader comments from AL.com in an effort to prove that an impartial jury can't be seated in Mobile County.

    "The defendant avers that the prevailing guilt found in these various comments is toxic to the presumptive jury pool and as a result will make it exceedingly difficult for any potential juror to retain steadfast impartiality against the tide of public opinion," the motion states.

    http://www.al.com/news/mobile/index....l#incart_river
    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    "There are some people who just do not deserve to live,"
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    "Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

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    Capital murder trial to begin today for woman accused of torturing, killing DeBlase children

    Opening arguments are set to begin at 1 p.m. Friday in Mobile County Circuit Court in the capital murder trial of a 26-year-old woman accused of torturing and killing the DeBlase siblings.

    Heather Leavell-Keaton is set to stand trial for the death of siblings Natalie DeBlase, 4, and Chase DeBlase, 3. Natalie was dumped in woods near Citronelle on March 4, 2010, and Chase was disposed of June 20, 2010, north of Vancleave, Miss.

    The DeBlase children
    were stuffed into a suitcase, put in a closet and choked to death, the Mobile County District Attorney's Office said.

    Keaton's common-law husband, John DeBlase, 31, was found guilty in November of three counts of capital murder in the childrens' deaths.

    Previously, AL.com reported that Keaton filed an eight-page change of venue motion on her behalf last week. The motion says that pretrial publicity in the case has made it impossible to seat an impartial jury in Mobile County.

    http://www.al.com/news/mobile/index....l#incart_river
    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    "There are some people who just do not deserve to live,"
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    "Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

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    Capital murder trial begins for woman who allegedly poisoned DeBlase children with anti-freeze

    The capital murder trial for the 26-year-old woman who allegedly poisoned her common law husband's two children with anti-freeze five years ago and ignored their dying screams for help began on Friday in Mobile County Circuit Court.

    Prosecutors alleged that Heather Leavell-Keaton, of Louisville, Ky., tortured and killed Natalie DeBlase, 4, and Chase DeBlase, 3, with her common law husband, John DeBlase, in their residence at Peach Place Apartments in Mobile. John DeBlase was convicted of capital murder in a separate trial in November 2014.

    "The evidence you will hear in this case is real, it's not some made-for-TV movie," Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich said in the opening statements portion of the trial. "It's a true series of criminal acts where two children ... were starved, tortured, poisoned, and murdered."

    James Vollmer, Leavell-Keaton's attorney, described John DeBlase in his opening statements as an abusive boyfriend that beat his children and strangled them by himself. He claimed that the prosecution's assertion that Leavell-Keaton dosed the two children with anti-freeze was told to investigators by "jailhouse snitches."

    "The state wants to overcome their lack of evidence with excuses and explanations," Vollmer said. "She is not going to be convicted by science."

    Prosecutors alleged Leavell-Keaton poisoned Natalie with anti-freeze in December 2009 after Natalie had given her "the cold shoulder."

    Leavell-Keaton disapproved of John DeBlase's grandmother referring to Natalie as "princess," Rich said. So, she severed their relationship, which caused Natalie to ignore her.

    With the poison circulating in her system, Natalie's breath "smelled like death," prosecutors said. She defecated and urinated on herself, and vomited black material.

    Leavell-Keaton and John DeBlase put the child in the bathtub with a pillow and a tarp and then in the closet, Rich said. The day Natalie died, March 20, 2010, she was "screaming like she was stabbed with a knife," and John DeBlase came home to find her unresponsive.

    The family drove out to the woods near Citronelle and the couple dumped her body there without burying it, Rich said.

    Before long, Chase began asking "where sissy was, where's sissy," Rich said.

    "Well, we know where sissy was," Rich said." She was in the woods. She was dead."

    Leavell-Keaton, who was pregnant with John DeBlaze's child at the time, dosed Chase with the anti-freeze, Rich said. He died on June 20, 2010 – Father's Day – and his body was dumped in the woods north of Vancleave, Miss.

    According to prosecutors, police discovered the siblings' bones in December 2010; Natalie with traces of her red pajama shirt and black pants; Chase with pieces of his sock and a section of duct tape with blond hairs on it.

    The couple, who met through an online dating site in October 2008 while Leavell-Keaton was a Spring Hill College student, was apprehended in November 2010, Rich said.

    They had moved to Leavell-Keaton's mother's house in Louisville, Ky., and police were called, according to prosecutors.

    Their neighbor, retired Louisville Police Cpt. Lesile Wilson, testified that Leavell-Keaton's mother's boyfriend, Jim Emery, told him that he was concerned that Natalie and Chase were missing. Wilson called police.

    Former Louisville police officer Kristina Hagan testified that she and her partner were called to the house to investigate a claim that Leavell-Keaton was being held against her will.

    Hagan testified that Leavell-Keaton told her in a police interview John DeBlase punches walls and didn't let her leave the house.

    "If he couldn't have her, no one would," Keaton said, citing what Leavell-Keaton told her.

    Prosecutors said Leavell-Keaton was removed from the home and taken to the Center for Women and Children in Louisville.

    Mobile investigators arrested Leavell-Keaton on a claim of a child abuse 12 days later, after she had fled the domestic violence shelter. John DeBlase was arrested in Florida.

    Peggy Wilson, Leslie Wilson's wife, testified that she spoke to John DeBlase prior to the police showing up at his house.

    "He said he did have two children, he said they were still back in Alabama, and that he was going to go get them," she said.

    http://www.al.com/news/mobile/index....l#incart_river
    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    "There are some people who just do not deserve to live,"
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    "Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

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    'You're a manipulator, sweetie': Detective challenges Heather Keaton in death of DeBlase children

    A Mobile investigator blasted Heather Leavell-Keaton as a child abuser, alleging that she stood by while her common law's husband's two dead children were dumped in the woods.

    "You're a manipulator, sweetie," lead detective Angela Prine said in a Nov. 30, 2010 videotaped interrogation. "Whether you had anything to do with it or not, you knew two children were missing and they've been dumped somewhere and you didn't care..."

    The explosive interrogation, which resulted in Leavell-Keaton slamming the table with her fists, was shown to the jury during the third day of Keaton's capital murder trial on Tuesday in Mobile County Circuit Court.

    At the end of the video, Prine left the room and Leavell-Keaton buried her face in her hands and sobbed, "Oh my God, I've screwed myself over, I talked."

    Prosecutors alleged that Leavell-Keaton, of Louisville, Ky., tortured and killed Natalie DeBlase, 4, and Chase DeBlase, 3, with her common law husband, John DeBlase, in their residence at Peach Place Apartments in Mobile. John DeBlase was convicted of capital murder in a separate trial in November 2014.

    Leavell-Keaton, a former Spring Hill College student, poisoned Natalie with anti-freeze after Natalie had given her "the cold shoulder," according to prosecutors. She died and her body was dumped March 4, 2010 in the woods near Citronelle.

    Leavell-Keaton, who was pregnant with John DeBlaze's baby daughter at the time, also dosed Chase with the anti-freeze, prosecutors said. He died on June 20, 2010 – Father's Day – and his body was dumped in the woods north of Vancleave, Miss.

    Cynthia Howard, a Kentucky health and family services investigator, testified on Tuesday that she interviewed Leavell-Keaton on Nov. 30 at the Louisville Police Department.

    She spoke with Leavell-Keaton to gather information that would allow the state to put Leavell-Keaton and DeBlase's daughter into foster care.

    Howard testified that Leavell-Keaton speculated Natalie that and Chase might have been given anti-freeze because John DeBlase had given her dog anti-freeze and "enjoyed watching him die."

    She also said that Leavell-Keaton told her that she put Natalie in the closet because she was "whiny and sick and throwing up."

    "While she was locked in the closet, she continued to scream for her Dad to help her and it continued and it continued and it continued," said Howard, stopping her testimony to wipe away tears with a Kleenex. "She stopped yelling out for her Dad and screaming out and crying, and she didn't check on her."

    According to Howard, Leavell-Keaton said that John DeBlase put Natalie's body in the back of their car and drove to the Wal-Mart in Saraland, where they bought a shovel, gloves and a bag to put the body in.

    Howard testified that Leavell-Keaton told her that she would whip both children very hard, and John DeBlase would hit them harder.

    "She had said she didn't really want to say it because she was afraid it would make her look bad," Howard said. "They were better off dead and in heaven than in being abused."

    Other items from the trial:

    • On Monday, Mobile County prosecutors played a Nov. 18, 2010 videotaped interview between Leavell-Keaton and Louisville police Sgt. Kevin Thompson.Leavell-Keaton told Thompson that John DeBlase gave Natalie one or two glasses of cranberry juice when she was sick and that she "puked up some black stuff." He also put her in the closet, Leavell-Keaton said.

    • Once Natalie started to defecate and urinate on herself, Leavell-Keaton said that John put her in the bathtub overnight with a tarp and a pillow.

    • Leavell-Keaton also told Thompson that Natalie screamed before she died and it sounded "like if you stabbed a cat with a knife."

    • Dog handler Jennifer Jordan Hall, of Louisville, Kentucky, testified on Tuesday that she searched John DeBlase's van on Dec. 1, 2010 with her two dogs. The dogs detected the smell of human remains on a gray stuffed animal dog that was lying just behind the front seat as well as a Winnie-the-Pooh doll and a piece of luggage in the trunk.

    • Prine, the Mobile police investigator, alleged in her interrogation of Leavell-Keaton that she "despised" Natalie and that Leavell-Keaton was jealous of her.She also said that John DeBlase was "spineless" and that Leavell-Keaton was not. "I think you got all the backbone and I think you had all the power in that relationship," Prine said.

    • Leavell-Keaton told Prine that Chase began asking "where's sissy at?" after Leavell-Keaton and John DeBlase dumped Natalie's body."And he'd say that and I would cry and Chase would go 'why are you crying Mommy,' and John would go 'you know she's just upset because Natalie is at her friend's house and she just misses her,'" Leavell-Keaton said.

    Leavell-Keaton told Prine that she didn't approve of Natalie's grandmother telling her she was a princess.

    "... I don't mind these things in moderation, but Natalie used to go around calling herself 'Princess Natalie Lexis DeBlase,'" Leavell-Keaton said in the interview.

    Leavell-Keaton told Prine that Natalie gave her the cold shoulder because "I'm the one that said no more 'Maw-Maw,'" referring to Natalie's grandmother.

    Later in the interview, Prine seized on the princess remark.

    "All three-year-old little girls want to be a princess, sweetheart," Prine said to Leavell-Keaton. "And to tell them that, that it has gone too far and that they're not a princess, how ugly is that?"

    Leavell-Keaton replied, "No, that's realistic."

    http://www.al.com/news/mobile/index....l#incart_river
    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    "There are some people who just do not deserve to live,"
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    "Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

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