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The Florida father accused of tossing his 5-year-old daughter to her death from a bridge is mentally incompetent to stand trial, a judge ruled Thursday. John Jonchuck, 25, was ordered to a state hospital for treatment and to determine whether he can eventually understand the charges against him, including first-degree murder, reported NBC affiliate WFLA.
Both the state and defense lawyers agreed that Jonchuck's mental state remains fragile, and noted that he has acted bizarrely during his court appearances since the girl was killed Jan. 8 in St. Petersburg. Hours before she was killed, Jonchuck's family court lawyer called 911 to report his erratic behavior with her earlier in the day, Hillsborough County authorities said. He repeatedly called her "God," became "nuts" and asked her to read a Bible written in Swedish, she said. "What I'm saying is, he's out of his mind, and he has a minor child with him," the lawyer told the dispatcher. Deputies checked on Jonchuck but found no reason to detain him before authorities say he threw Phoebe from the 62-foot-high span.
The girl's mother told WFLA that he had custody because she had health problems and could not care for the girl. State prosecutors said they believe Jonchuck can become mentally competent in the next six to nine months to eventually stand trial. The Pinellas-Pasco Circuit judge scheduled a check of his progress for June 9.