Crime

Judge: John Jonchuck, charged with throwing daughter off Tampa Bay bridge, still not competent to stand trial

PINELLAS -- A Pinellas County judge has ruled that the man accused of dropping his daughter off a Tampa Bay area bridge is still not competent to stand trial.

Pinellas County Circuit Judge Chris Helinger ruled Tuesday morning that John Jonchuck Jr. is still not competent.

Jonchuck, 26, was not in the courtroom for the brief hearing, but his mother Michele Jonchuck was in attendance. Another hearing has been set for Oct. 18 to discuss John Jonchuck's competency.

Jonchuck is accused of dropping his daughter Phoebe Jonchuck 62 feet from the Sunshine Skyway southbound approach on Jan. 8, 2015, just after midnight. He is facing charges of murder, aggravated fleeing and eluding and aggravated assault with a motor vehicle on a law enforcement officer.

Last week, attorneys for Jonchuck said their client is having some issues in jail but declined to put a deputy on the stand to testify about specifics. Attorneys said they saw him this morning and have concerns about Jonchuck's stability and that he is not taking all his medication.

That's when Helinger ordered another doctor's evaluation to whether Jonchuck can be ruled competent.

Jonchuck has already been found incompetent once in this case - in February when a judge ruled on a psychological evaluation.

During that unusually cold and windy January 2015 night, a St. Petersburg police officer spotted John Jonchuck speeding by in his car early that morning onto the bridge and then the officer said he witnessed Jonchuck drop Phoebe.

Phoebe lived with her father in Tampa, and in the last day of her life, he made comments that frightened his lawyer so much she called authorities and frantically wondered aloud if she should have kept the girl at her office.

Since then, Jonchuck has been ruled incompetent and sent to a state hospital for treatment.

If Jonchuck is ultimately ruled competent, stands trial and is found guilty, prosecutors have indicated they plan to seek the death penalty.

Jonchuck has had a long history of treatment for mental health issues, including schizophrenia, bipolar issues and an attention deficit disorder.

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