A Florida man is in custody after throwing his 5-year-old daughter off the Sunshine Skyway early Thursday morning, killing her.
John Nicholas Jonchuck Jr., 25, of Tampa was being chased by the police headed southbound towards the Skyway when he abruptly stopped his vehicle and threw his daughter off the bridge, about 62 feet below.
According to Tampa Bay:
The incident began just after midnight when a St. Petersburg Police officer was driving home, headed south toward the Sunshine Skyway, and he was passed by a Chrysler PT Cruiser going an estimated 100 mph near the Bayway exit.
The officer caught up with the car near the Maximo Park exit, where the driver braked hard and stopped before continuing south.
The driver stopped again near the top of the Dick Misener Bridge on the Skyway approach. The driver, later identified as John Nicholas Jonchuck Jr., 25, of Tampa, waited as the officer stopped about a car length behind him — but walked toward the officer as he approached, prompting the officer to draw his weapon.
The officer said Jonchuck then said something he couldn’t make out, went to the passenger side of the vehicle and grabbed the girl, later identified as his daughter Phoebe Jonchuck, 5. He lifted her under her arms with her face pressed to his chest, walked to the edge of the bridge and dropped her to the water about 62 feet below.
The officer went to the side of the bridge to locate the girl, while Jonchuck got back in his car. He was spotted five minutes later, before eventually making a U-turn and driving the wrong way towards officers. That’s when stop sticks were deployed.
He declined to speak or step out of the car when officers approached. They broke the car’s windows, and Jonchuck was taken to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office for questioning.
A search for the girl began immediately, as southbound lanes of I-275 were closed. The Coast Guard assisted. She was found by an Eckerd College Search and Rescue team about a half-mile east of where she was thrown into the water, police said. They tried to revive her, but she was pronounced dead after she was taken to the hospital sometime before 3:20 a.m.
The child’s mother was not immediately notified of the incident. Jonchuck had legal custody.
Johnchuck’s former landlord Melody Dishman spoke out:
Jonchuck would frequently yell at Phoebe and lock her in her bedroom, she said. “She didn’t want to be around John,” Dishman said.” I could see it in her eyes.”
But he never hit her, Dishman said. “I would never think that he would have hurt her.”
Jonchuck is being held at the Pinellas County Jail. He faces charges of first-degree murder, fleeing police, and aggravated assault on an officer with a motor vehicle.
Jonchuck has a criminal record history involving several charges. State records show he has been charged with domestic battery six times since 2008, though the charges were dropped in every case. He also faced a DUI charge in 2013. He reportedly sought a domestic violence injunction against the child’s mother late last month. His petition was denied.
Officers are still examining Jonchuck’s car, but have not found any alcohol or drugs.
SOURCE: Tampa Bay | VIDEO SOURCE: News Inc.