The Florida toddler found dead after she was tossed from a St. Petersburg bridge was still alive before the fatal 60-foot plunge, police said Friday based on preliminary evidence. At a news conference following Thursday's horrific act, investigators didn't immediately know whether 5-year-old Phoebe Jonchuck was initially alive, and were awaiting the results of a medical examiner's report. A police officer who witnessed the crime — allegedly committed by her father, John Jonchuck Jr. — said he may have heard the girl scream but wasn't certain.
Police are still trying to piece together what led Jonchuck, 25, to allegedly take his daughter's life. The girl's mother, Michelle Kerr, said despite Jonchuck's "Jekyll and Hyde" personality and their rocky past relationship, she never imagined he would turn his rage toward Phoebe. "She would always say 'I love you' to him," a teary-eyed Kerr told NBC affiliate WFLA. "She loved her daddy."
Phoebe's body was recovered from the Tampa Bay around 1 a.m. Thursday, an hour after a St. Petersburg police officer said he saw Jonchuck hurl the girl over the railing. Jonchuck was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, aggravated fleeing and eluding, and aggravated assault with a motor vehicle on a law enforcement officer. He was denied bond but is scheduled to return to Pinellas County court Monday over whether he wants to retain a court-appointed attorney.
Jonchuck had custody of Phoebe after Kerr said her multiple sclerosis had made it a struggle to care for the girl. Despite a history of domestic violence, Kerr told WFLA that her former relationship with Jonchuck appeared to be on the mend: The parents and Phoebe exchanged gifts on Christmas Eve. But she remains lost for a motive as to why Jonchuck would have allegedly harmed his daughter. "She was so lovable," Kerr added. "She was an amazing, amazing, amazing child."
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