A man who threw his five-year-old daughter to her death off of a 60-foot high bridge in Tampa Bay, Florida, has been charged with first-degree murder.
The tragedy occurred at around midnight on Wednesday night. A police officer saw a PT Cruiser driving by him at about 100 mph and heading in the direction of the Sunshine Skyway, according to police spokeswoman Yolanda Fernandez.
The policeman gave chase, as the PT Cruiser reached the top of the Dick Misener Bridge and entered the approach to the Skyway. At this point the driver stopped and hurled the child over the side of the bridge and into the water below.
The driver then got back into his car and drove south, but was stopped by police about 30 minutes later. The man, identified as 25-year-old John Jonchuck, was arrested and later charged with first-degree murder. He also faces charges of aggravated fleeing and eluding police and aggravated assault with a motor vehicle on a law enforcement officer.
According to the police, the girl — Phoebe Jonchuk — was still alive when she was thrown. The rescuers found her after a 40-minute search but she could not be resuscitated and died in the hospital. (Scroll down for the video reports.)
1. John Jonchuk Jr, 25, (left) has been charged with murder after his five-year-old daughter Phoebe (right) was thrown to her death off a 60ft bridge in Tampa Bay.
2. This is the car seat, recovered from Boca Ciega Bay, in which investigators found the dead child.
3. An officer who claims to have witnessed the incident chased Jonchuk and detained him.
4. Divers sent to Sunshine Skyway bridge (pictured) found Phoebe’s lifeless body in the water after 40 minutes.
Divers from Eckerd College helped the rescuers with the search, as did two fishermen in the area, My Fox Tampa Bay reported. One of the fishermen, Bobby Hay, said:
He said, “You know the waters; take me where you think she’ll possibly be”. So we ran right over where the tide was going and with the wind breaking the opposite way — where I thought she would be — and we weren’t far off.
Unfortunately, by the time the rescuers found her, the girl could not be saved.
Tampa Bay News reports that John Jonchuk’s friend and former landlord contacted the police on Tuesday after receiving some “scary texts” from the suspect, telling her that he had “found Jesus”. Police spokeswoman Ms. Fernandez said:
It’s unfathomable I mean and officers see all kinds of things but it’s still very difficult to see something like this unfold before your eyes. What could make someone throw someone over a railing, let alone your own child? How could you possibly understand that?
No further details were immediately available.
5. Jonchuk had legal custody of his daughter and they were looking for a permanent residence, reports claim.
6. An officer saw a Chrysler PT Cruiser driving at 100mph towards the bridge before the girl was thrown.
7. St. Petersburg Police confirmed that the girl had died in hospital after she was pulled from the river.
And here are the video reports. First the USA Today:
And here is Fox’s report:
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