Florida Man Who Threw 5-Year-Old Daughter Off Bridge Found Guilty of Murder, Sentenced to Life in Prison

Screen Shot 2019-04-17 at 12
John Jonchuck was found guilty of first-degree murder by a Florida jury on Tuesday for throwing his 5-year-old daughter off a Tampa Bay bridge in 2015. WFTV/Screenshot

A Florida man was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison for throwing his 5-year-old daughter off a Tampa Bay bridge four years ago.

After seven hours of deliberation spanning two days, Florida jurors Tuesday found John Jonchuck, 29, guilty of first-degree murder of the death of his daughter, Phoebe, in 2015. During his trial, prosecutors asserted that Jonchuck acted vengefully when he dropped his daughter off the Dick Misener Bridge, and did so because wanted to prevent the girl's mother from gaining custody, reported Tampa Bay Times. The defendant's defense attorney argued that his actions were colored by his insanity and belief that he was saving her.

The jury's verdict, which determined Jonchuck was aware he would kill his daughter by dropping her off the bridge, and that the attack was premeditated, comes four years after the incident occured on the morning of January 8, 2015. Jonchuck could now spend the rest of his life in jail, but will not be facing the death penalty.

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe praised the jury's verdict and the sentencing passed. "I am satisfied that justice was done," he told the Times. "My immediate reaction is killing children doesn't make one a very sympathetic character."

William Vickers, a St. Petersburg police officer who witnessed the murder, told the newspaper he is "pleased with the verdict and am glad to have some closure for Phoebe and her family after four long years."

During the over four-week-long trial, 12 jurors heard testimony from mental health experts, members of Jonchuck's family, police officers and forensic psychiatrists. Materials, such as taped interrogations and autopsy photos, also aided the group in reaching their decision. The defendant's friends and family recounted how Jonchuck had displayed a history of violent outbursts, bad temperament and desperation for attention. They also detailed his troubled childhood which was said to have resulted from the split of his parents, reported the Times.

After being expelled from a number of preschools, Jonchuck's parents took the troubled boy to a doctor and allowed him to be prescribed mood-stabilizing medication. However, the treatment did not stop his first major violent outburst. Jonchuck was 12 when was arrested for the first time for threatening his father with a large cooking knife.

Assistant state attorney Paul Bolan told jurors that "it was rage that drove him to it on top of that bridge," according to WPTV. "Did he know what he was doing, and did he know it was wrong? The answer is clearly yes," he added.