Phoebe Jonchuck was laid to rest this week, with more than a 100 mourners remembering the murdered 5-year-old as a happy girl and wondering how her father could have snapped as he did, throwing the girl to her death from a bridge.
Family members chose to wear bright colors to the funeral, honoring Phoebe and her love of color. Her mother, Michelle Kerr, wore a bright sundress and wept as she entered the Tampa church where Phoebe was laid to rest.
Emotions at the funeral ran high, with many still angry at her father John Jonchuck, who police say threw the girl from a 62-foot-high bridge into water below. At one point, a man shouted in anger at John Jonchuck.
But others tried to focus on Phoebe’s vibrant life. Her elementary school teacher addressed the mourners, telling them how much the little girl loved school and how classmates blow kisses to heaven for their slain friend.
“There needs to be a lot of forgiveness here today,” said Pastor Brent Byerman at Lake Magdeline United Methodist Church, “not only for the person who took Phoebe’s life, but also for ourselves.”
Many expressed confusion at how her father could do such a thing. Phobe’s mother told ABC Action News in an interview before the funeral that despite her own tumultuous relationship with John, she believe he was “good” for Phoebe. He had full custody of the girl, as Michelle has multiple sclerosis and has difficulty caring for the girl on her own.
John’s mother, Michele Jonchuck, said she was shocked as well.
“The child loved her daddy,” she said. “And her daddy was never mean to her. He adored her. [Why he did it] is a question that maybe one day will be answered, or it never will.”
“Obviously, there was something that snapped,” she continued. “I have to forgive him, because I’ll never go to heaven if I don’t forgive him. I’m not happy with him. Everybody has to forgive each other’s trespasses. I never imagined that this would happen.”
John Jonchuck will go before a grand jury to see what charges he could face for allegedly killing Phoebe Jonchuck. If convicted, he could face life in prison or the death penalty, depending on what prosecutors decide.