First court appearance. (Article continued below)
St. Petersburg, Florida — Today, just after midnight, John Nicholas Jonchuck, 25, committed an unthinkable act. Jonchuck drove his vehicle over a Tampa Bay bridge and pulled over. He then removed his daughter, Phoebe, 5, from her seat by her arms, pressed her head to his chest, and threw her over the rail. Phoebe fell more than 60 feet into the water after being tossed over the Dick Misener Bridge, which leads into Sunshine Skyway bridge.
According to St. Petersburg Police, an officer, who was on his way home, saw Jonchuck speed by in his Chryslet PT Cruiser at 100 mph near the Bayway exit. The officer attempted to conduct a traffic stop; however, by the time the officer was able to catch up to the vehicle, Jonchuck had already pulled over to the side of the road.
The officer reported that Jonchuck jumped out of his vehicle and began to “rush” toward the officer. The officer drew his weapon, but Jonchuck went around to the passenger side of the car and got his daughter out.
The officer said Jonchuck mumbled something, but he couldn’t make out what Jonchuck had said.
That is when Jonchuck threw her over.
The officer said he thought he could hear the girl screaming as she fell.
The officer immediately ran to the side of the bridge in an attempt to locate the girl. He lowered a ladder to a platform so he could get closer to the water, at which time Jonchuck got back into his vehicle and fled the scene.
The Eckerd College Search and Rescue team found the girl nearly one mile from where she was thrown in the water. It took over an hour for rescue to locate the girl.
“Seeing that it is an deliberate act is kind of what sticks out,” said Ryan Dilkey, coordinator for Eckerd’s search team. “It is terribly unfortunate. It adds to the tragedy.”
Police said every effort was made to try and revive Phoebe, but she was pronounced dead at 3:20 a.m.
A friend of Jonchuck called police Tuesday night and reported some creepy text messages he had sent her. The messages were mean and he called her names she said. She said in one text message he wrote that he had found Jesus. She told police it was odd and out of the ordinary.
Police advised her to file a restraining order.
The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office has released a 911 audio recording of Jonchuck’s attorney, Genevieve Torres. She placed the call on Wednesday, after she had met with him on a parental rights case. Torres is now completely devastated that she allowed Phoebe to leave her office. She said she knew something was wrong, she could “feel it in her gut.” On the audio, you can hear how upset Torres was for the child.
Deputies met up with Jonchuck at the church he mentioned, but they said everything seemed okay. And it didn’t appear the child was in any immediate danger.
Torres also called DCF, but they did nothing.
Court records show Jonchuck has been charged with domestic battery six times since 2008, but the charges were dropped in every case. He was also arrested for DUI in 2013. He sought a domestic violence injunction against Phoebe’s mother late last month, but his petition was denied.
Jonchuck was located in Manatee County, where he attempted to run over deputies with his vehicle. Stop sticks had to be deployed to stop him.
He was arrested and charged with First Degree Murder, Aggravated Assault with a Motor Vehicle on a Law Enforcement Officer, and Fleeing and Eluding.
According to the St. Petersburg Police Department, Jonchuck demanded an attorney and refuses to cooperate with police.
Phoebe’s mother, Michelle Kerr, told police that Jonchuck is bipolar, but she always considered him a good father. However, she did tell police Jonchuck, at times, could be like “Jekyll and Hyde, a demon, a devil.”
Jonchuck had custody of Phoebe at the time of her death.
Police said Kerr gave custody of Phoebe to Jonchuck because Kerr didn’t feel she could take care of the child any longer. Kerr has two more children at home.
Kerr has also been arrested multiple times for Fraud, Theft, and in 2008 she was arrested for Felony Child Neglect.
Kerr now says she completely forgives Jonchuck for what he did.
St. Petersburg Police Chief, Tony Holloway, said even though the officer thought he heard the girl scream, an autopsy will be performed so they can determine if she was already dead when she was thrown over the railing.
“I’ve been doing this job for 29 years,” Holloway said. “I don’t even know what was going through this guy’s mind.”