Couple Accused of Keeping Boy in Cage Charged in His DeathOn Tuesday, Christian's father and stepmother were charged with the boy's murder, said authorities in Lake County, Ind. Riley Lowell Choate, 39, and Kimberly Leona Kubina, 45, also were charged with battery, neglect of a dependent and criminal confinement.
By: Lolly Bowean, Steve Schmadke, Chicago Tribune (MCT)
CHICAGO — Before he died, 13-year-old Christian Choate was forced to live in a small dog cage, deprived of food and wearing nothing but a diaper, his relatives told investigators.
He often was chained to a tall bed frame and punched, kicked, beaten with a metal pole in the face and head, and choked until he turned purple, court records allege. The boy was given baths in ice cold water, and his feet and hands were bound so often he could barely stand because his limbs were numb, records show.
On Tuesday, Christian's father and stepmother were charged with the boy's murder, said authorities in Lake County, Ind. Riley Lowell Choate, 39, and Kimberly Leona Kubina, 45, also were charged with battery, neglect of a dependent and criminal confinement.
Christian had been missing for two years before his body was discovered last week. He died in April 2009 and his father admitted to burying the boy in a shallow grave under a slab of concrete at the Colfax Mobile Home Park in Gary, Ind., authorities said.
"Every time I think about it, I just about cry," said Butch Estrada, the boy's step-grandfather outside his Gary home Tuesday.
Estrada, whose son is married to Christian's mother, said Christian always called him "buddy," but they had not seen each other in several years. "He was a wonderful, wonderful little boy, and now we'll never know what he could have been."
According to a court affidavit filed Tuesday, Christian was regularly abused, his sister and others told Lake County sheriff's detectives.
Christian and his sister went to live with their father in July 2005 after Choate obtained full custody of them, records show.
The family lived in Merrillville, Ind., where Christian was locked in a room in the basement, the boy's teenage sister told detectives. Then the family moved to the Black Oak section of Gary, where Christian was forced to stay in a dog cage secured with seven locks in the front bedroom of their trailer, records show.
"He needs to be locked up. He's a dog," Kubina allegedly told other children living with the family, the affidavit said.
Christian's sister, who was 15 at the time, was in charge of taking care of her brother — feeding him, taking him to the bathroom and forcing him to exercise. She was also required to punish him and beat him for not following orders, the girl told detectives recently.
On April 5, 2009, Christian refused to eat, his sister said. Choate "became enraged" and punched the boy several times in the front and back of the head before throwing him back in the cage, the affidavit said.
Christian's sister said she eventually noticed he was not breathing. She and another girl took Christian out of the cage and tried to perform CPR but could not revive him.
The girl told detectives she watched as her father and her stepmother wrapped Christian in two plastic bags, placed his body in a plastic tote and loaded him in the back of a van.
Kubina allegedly told the girl they buried Christian and covered him in concrete "so he couldn't get out."
It wasn't until the sheriff's office received a call from Christian's biological mother last week that authorities knew the boy was missing, the sheriff said. Police took Choate into custody and he led them to the boy's body.
Police recovered the dog cage from a storage locker in Crofton, Ky., according to the affidavit. They also gathered computer files and other equipment because the girl said some of the alleged abuse was recorded.
One relative told detectives that when the family's grandmother would visit, the children would cover the cage with a blanket so their guest wouldn't see Christian.
After Christian died, Kubina gathered all the children living in the trailer and told them the boy ran away, a relative told detectives.
"This is a family thing, and we're going to work through it," Kubina told the children, according to the affidavit. "This goes to the grave."
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