ST. PETERSBURG (CBSMiami/AP) — A five year old Tampa girl died after her father threw her off a bridge on the approach to the Sunshine Skyway early Thursday morning.
“I have been doing this for 29 years and I don’t even know what’s going through this man’s mind,” said Chief Anthony Holloway with the St. Petersburg Police.
According to officials just after midnight a St. Petersburg police officer who was heading home saw a PT Cruiser speed by him at 100 mph and up the Dick Misnener Bridge on the approach to the Sunshine Skyway. The officer said he followed the car and once her reached near the top of the bridge the driver who they say is 25 year old John Jonchuck Jr. was sitting in his car waiting for him. Police say Jonchuck got out of his car and starting saying something to the officer he did not understand. Then the 25-year old father walked to the passenger side of the vehicle, pulled the little girl out of the car put her face on his chest than walked to the bridge and threw her over.
Jonchuck who police said had legal custody of his daughter Phoebe and lived with his father in Tampa got back into his car and took off. The officer stayed behind trying to rescue the little girl.
“There was a ladder by the side of the bridge. Boats came in and found the child an hour and a half later, a mile away,” said Chief Holloway. Phoebe Jonchuk was rushed to the hospital but was pronounced dead.
Her father, Jonchuk, was stopped by Manatee Sheriff’s deputies about 30 minutes later. Authorities had to used stop sticks to bring the vehicle to a halt. They had to break into the car to get him out.
He was returned to St. Petersburg for questioning and was booked into the Pinellas County Jail.
The girl’s mother was then given the horrible news.
“She was my little angel baby,” said the child’s mother Michelle Kerr. “She always will be. Now she really is.”
Neighbors said Jonchuk would often yell at his daughter and lock her in her room.
Jonchuk appeared in court Thursday afternoon. When asked in court if he could afford a lawyer, Jonchuk talked about God, saying ” I want to leave it in the hands of God.”
“I’m pretty sure God is not going to be representing you in this case and you’re going to be standing trial,” said the judge.
The same judge ordered Jonchuk to be held without bail. He must also undergo a mental evaluation.
Jonchuk is facing charges of first degree murder, aggravated assault with a motor vehicle on a law enforcement officer and aggravated fleeing and eluding police.
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