The 5-year-old named Phoebe was thrown off the Sunshine Skyway bridge by her own father, John Nicholas Jonchuck, 25. She was alive when she 60 feet into the bay and reportedly drowned.
According to Fox News, as a St. Petersburg police officer was heading home southbound toward the bridge just after midnight when he saw a Chrysler PT Cruiser pass him going 100 mph. Once the father reached the top of the bridge, he stopped his car, got out first then took Phoebe out and threw her into the strong bay current. Jonchuck then got back into his car and drove off until cops stopped and arrested him 30 minutes later.
1 hour and 40 minutes later, rescuers found the girl, pulled her out of the water and tried to resuscitate her, but she was pronounced dead at the hospital 2:44 am Thursday.
He is now facing first-degree murder charges and being held without bond.
Hours before he threw his little girl over a bridge to her death, Jonchuck met with a priest and asked to be baptized, all with the bright and happy Phoebe by his side, USA Today reports.
According to NY Daily News, Phoebe was in the middle of a bitter custody battle between her two estranged parents. Jonchuck had a history of domestic violence abuse and emotional instability. Phoebe’s mother, Michelle Kerr was completely devastated and told the Tampa Bay Times that she never feared for her daughter’s safety from the man who had primary custody over Phoebe, although she knows that Jonchuck is not mentally stable. She did also state that “He was very, very bipolar. He was Jekyll and Hyde all the way,” and she mentioned that he was on medication for psychological problems.
Speaking through sobs and smoking a cigarette, Kerr wished that it would have been her instead of her precious daughter. “Why couldn’t he have done it to me? All I could think of was he loved her so much. Why? Why?”
The two had an extremely turbulent and abusive 6-year relationship. In 2010, Jonchuck was accused of throwing Kerr to the ground during an argument. In another incident, Kerr told cops that Jonchuck hit her and dragged her around the apartment by her hair.
Jonchuck also accused Kerr of violent behavior, saying she had her own psychological problems and abused drugs and alcohol. “Michelle Kerr violently attacked me with a box cutter after being confronted about a secret Facebook in which she had (been) having an affair,” he wrote in court papers obtained by the Times. “(That) evening she brutally kept striking me in the face.”
Jonchuck’s attorney Genevieve Torres frantically called 911 right before the incident happened, fearing that the man would harm his daughter. “He’s nuts. He’s out of his mind and he has a minor child with him, (and is) driving to a church now. I should have kept the child (here),” she told the 911 dispatchers. Authorities were not able to save Phoebe despite the call, and they are promising to work harder to protect children.
The Department of Children & Families child abuse hotline said that a call in December 2014 was the sixth time the agency had received a call about the family in the past 2 and half years. In 2012 and 2013, they received calls claiming substance abuse and mistreatment. Jonchuck had been arrested 6 times for domestic battery and deputies confirmed they had 3 cases with the family with child protection services.
The DCF will also take immediate action to try to prevent this terrible event from happening again. They will now change their hotline criteria to include a trigger for when a caregiver is believed to be experiencing a psychotic episode that would require a department investigator to visit the family within 4 hours.