Just 12 hours before 5-year-old Phoebe Jonchuck was thrown to her death over Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa, FL by her father, John Jonchuck, 25, investigators discovered that the child abuse hotline ignored calls that were made in regard to Phoebe’s safety, according to Huffington Post.
On January 7, Jonchuck’s divorce attorney made a phone call to the child abuse hotline where he warned the operator of his client’s unusual behavior, and also informed them that he was suffering from mental delusions. The attorney – whose name has not been released to the public – claims that Jonchuck had driven to various churches in his pajamas, with Phoebe at his side, and asked his attorney to translate the bible in Swedish, according to Daily Mail.
“He’s calling the office every five minutes and saying these religious things and saying the child might not be his, it just really concerns me,” Jonchuck’s divorce attorney told an operator. “It’s all craziness and it doesn’t make any sense and he’s out of his mind.”
According to reports, the inexperienced operator didn’t believe that the attorney’s call was about Phoebe’s safety, but about the mental health of Jonchuck; therefore, the child abuse hotline operator labeled the call ‘inadequate supervision’ and did not turn the case over to investigators.
A week prior to Phoebe’s, the child abuse hotline had received their first call about Phoebe’s safety, claiming there were violence in the home and the caller believed that Phoebe was being abused. The child abuse hotline ignored the call and did not turn it over to investigators.
On January 8, a witness – Hillsborough county police officer – saw Jonchuck halt his vehicle on Sunshine Skyway Bridge, pulled a child out from the backseat of the vehicle, and threw the child over the bridge. Police later discovered that the child was his 5-year-old daughter Phoebe Jonchuck who was more than likely alive when her father threw her over the bridge.
Phoebe’s body was discovered hours later, and her father was later arrested for first-degree murder, but due to his mental state, he has not been officially charged. He is currently undergoing a psychological evaluation.
As a result of Phoebe’s tragedy and the many other cases that the child abuse hotline had labeled ‘inadequate supervision,’ DCF decided to updated their hotline protocol. If the child abuse hotline receives a call about a child’s parent or guardian experiencing mental issues, the hotline is now requiring a child protective investigator to visit the home within four hours.
The secretary of the Department of Children and Families, Mike Carroll, released a statement about the new DCF protocol.
“Phoebe’s heart-breaking death points to some of the most challenging issues we struggle with in child welfare – mental health, substance abuse and domestic violence. The events on the day of Phoebe’s death evolved quickly, and in response we immediately put new protocols in place at the Abuse Hotline to ensure we are equipped and prepared to respond more quickly and effectively. Even one child death is too many, and I will not tolerate anything less than 100 percent for the children we are charged with protecting.”
[Image via WFLA]