Crime

Girl dead after mother seen throwing her into Hillsborough River, Tampa police chief says

Dive crews and police officers responded at about 4:30 p.m. Thursday to the area near Columbus Drive and the Hillsborough River.
Dive crews and police officers responded at about 4:30 p.m. Thursday to the area near Columbus Drive and the Hillsborough River. Spectrum Bay News 9

A girl died Thursday afternoon after being thrown into the Hillsborough River, according to Tampa police.

At around 4:30 p.m., Tampa police divers recovered the girl’s body from the river about 75 feet from the shore. The girl, believed to be 4 years old, was rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, where she died shortly after arriving, Police Chief Brian Dugan said during a press conference at the scene.

Multiple witnesses had called police about 30 minutes earlier and had reported seeing a woman throw the girl into the river. Police responded to the scene and believe that the woman is believed to be the girl’s mother.

“It’s a crazy scene that we are still unraveling. It’s a completely tragic event. It’s a crazy world we live in,” Dugan said.

The woman was taken into custody after being found walking away from the scene, Dugan said, but he could not provide any more details. Witnesses were shaken up, the police chief said. Police were attempting to get answers from the mother and contacting other family members.

“It appears that she drove here,” Dugan said.

This is not the first time a girl was thrown off a bridge to her death by a parent in the Tampa Bay area.

On Jan. 8, 2015, 5-year-old Pheobe was thrown off the Dick Misener Bridge into Tampa Bay by her father, John Jonchuck. A St. Petersburg police officer had chased Jonchuck as he drove more than 100 miles per hour heading south toward the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The officer caught up to Jonchuck just as he stopped at the top of the Dick Misener Bridge, pulled Pheobe out, held her close to his chest, walked over to the railing and threw her into Tampa Bay.

St. Petersburg police escort John Jonchuck, who is suspected of throwing his 5-year-old daughter off the approach to the Sunshine Skyway, to the Pinellas County jail. Video courtesy Bay News 9.

The officer attempted to climb down a ladder from the bridge in an attempt to save the girl. Her body was discovered about two hours later.

The story drew national attention as Jonchuck’s long history of mental illness and his encounter just 12 hours earlier with law enforcement made headlines. Jonchuck has long suffered from schizophrenia, bipolar issues and an attention deficit disorder.

Despite previously being found incompetent to stand trial, Jonchuck is currently set to stand trial beginning Sept. 24 on a charge of first-degree murder.

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