Florida girl alive when tossed from bridge by father, police say

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 09, 2015 1:49 PM

TAMPA, Fla. (Reuters) - A 5-year-old Florida girl was likely alive when her father dropped her 62 feet off a bridge into the choppy waters of Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg police said on Friday.

Phoebe Jonchuck, a kindergarten student, was found in the water about an hour and a half later and pronounced dead at a hospital. An off-duty police officer thought he heard her scream as he witnessed her father, John Jonchuck, remove her from a vehicle and throw her over the bridge railing early on Thursday.

"Based on preliminary evidence, our investigators believe Phoebe was alive when Jonchuck dropped her from the bridge," St. Petersburg Police said in a statement.

John Jonchuck, 25, had been questioned by authorities just hours earlier, following reports of bizarre behavior. He assured them that he had no plans to harm himself or anyone else.

In a search of his car after the bridge incident, police said they found a pink booster seat, a cell phone and religious items.

Jonchuck remains in jail without bail, facing charges of first-degree murder, aggravated fleeing and eluding, and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon on a law enforcement officer.

(Reporting by Letitia Stein; Editing by Bernadette Baum)