Christian Choate

However, despite the fact that Christian Choate was well known to child protection authorities, the system that was meant to safeguard children failed him entirely. He was left to die alone in a dog cage by his cruel father and stepmother before he passed away.

A woman tipped off police in Gary, Indiana, in May 2011 about the location of the body of a child who had been murdered two years prior. They followed the clues to a mobile home park on the 5900 block of West 36th Avenue, where they made a disturbing discovery. Christian Choate, 13, was found dead and his body buried in a shed beneath a slab of concrete. His father, Riley Choate, and stepmother, Kimberly Kubina, murdered him in 2009. Christina Choate, Christian’s sister, summoned the courage to tell their mother, who promptly called the police, about what she knew about Christian’s death.

Christian’s body being found exposed a dark history of child abuse and neglect. After Aimee Eriks Estrada’s live-in boyfriend was accused of molesting Christian and his sister Christina in2004, she was unable to maintain custody of the children. Christian also accused his mother of inappropriately touching him and reported her to the authorities. Though Riley Choate had been accused of abusing his son in August of that year, he and his wife Kimberly Kubina welcomed Christian and Christina into their home. DCS officials determined that Choate had physically abused Kubina’s nieces who were living with them, but they were unable to find evidence to support the abuse allegations. The two girls had bruises and “inappropriate discipline” was listed as a reason in the report. 1 Because of the abuse, the nieces had to be taken into foster care for a long period of time. Shortly after their release, Choate and Kubina were awarded custody of Christian and Christina as well, so they were reunited with their children.

Christian Choate

Twelve people were jammed into the tiny mobile home, and things quickly went downhill for young Christian.

Both Choate and Kubina took their frustrations out on Christian. The slaps, punches, and kicks Christian would receive are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Christian was chained to a rigid bedpost, which was one of his punishments. He would be beaten with a metal pole and punched and kicked while chained to the bed. 2 Christian wasn’t just being beaten mercilessly; he was also being starved. His typical diet consisted of ramen for breakfast and lunch and dinner leftovers. As a last resort, Christian attempted to steal food.

Kubina bought a dog cage from their neighbour for $15, and when she wasn’t beating Christian, he had to live in there. Sometimes Kubina would add further punishment by spray painting his chained hands black. This happened when his hands were tied to the top of the cage. Christian was only let out of his cell to do chores and he had to beg for his freedom. Christian was unable to leave the cage, which was stationed next to Choate’s computer, even to use the restroom. Choate spent every day watching his son deteriorate in a tiny cage while he played video games.

Christian frequently questioned the adults’ decision to keep him from playing with other children. Paper and a pen were all he had to occupy his mind with. Christian wrote on these scraps of paper that he wanted nothing more than to be accepted by his own family, and he wondered why he was so despised. Because no one cared about him, he often lamented his hunger and thirst in his writings. In his writings, he describes himself as a depressed and lonely little boy who keeps wondering if anyone will come to see if he needs anything to eat or drink.

The other kids in the house warned that if they tried to protect Christian, they would be abused themselves. Kubina said, “Christian needs to be locked up” in response to their inquiry as to why Christian was confined to a cage. What can I say, he’s a dog. Christina later admitted that she, too, had hit Christian on occasion and had once choked him “until he turned blue,” adding insult to injury to the abuse Christian had already suffered at the hands of the two people who were supposed to care for him. She also said that when her brother disobeyed her orders, she would slap him with an open hand. She later told police she was afraid for her own safety if she didn’t get Christian to comply with her demands. Kubina ordered Christina to give Christian ice cold water baths in an effort to reduce the bruising and swelling on Christian’s body as a result of the beatings, much to Christian’s chagrin. Christian wore a diaper designed for a child of only four years old as the beatings became more severe and the food was withheld on a more regular basis. Christian’s extreme thinness allowed him to wear a size small diaper.

While confined, Christian gradually lost his faculties and, eventually, his humanity.

Christian began hallucinating and becoming so weak that he could hardly walk shortly before his death in early 2009. She tried to give him cereal, but he couldn’t chew or swallow, as Christina recalled. The following evening, Choate was so enraged that Christian wouldn’t eat that he hit him “full force several times in the front, side, and back of his head before throwing him back in the cage.”

That night, Christian died alone in a dog cage.

A plastic bag containing Christian’s body was then sealed and taken to a shed near the family’s mobile home, where he was later discovered. Here, he was dumped into a grave and buried in concrete with a bible across his chest. Christian had blunt force trauma to his body, internal bleeding, and a fractured skull, according to the autopsy results. Christian was kept in a cage because, according to Christina’s account to the police, Choate and Kubina told her he had molested another child in the trailer. However, neither Choate nor Kubina ever reported any incidents of molestation, as far as we can tell from our records.

Riley Choate and Kimberly Kubina
Riley Choate and Kimberly Kubina

“No one is really going to miss him. Choate said, “We’ll just bury him” when asked about the plan for his son’s disposal. 5 He was totally correct. Choate and Kubina had told neighbours and family that Christian had run away, but they never filed a missing person report, so it took two years for authorities to find out about Christian’s disappearance.

Christian had a long history of contact with child welfare authorities, but sadly nobody intervened in time to save his life, as was revealed by the investigation into his brutal murder. According to DCS, the Choates’ home was investigated in 2007 after receiving reports of ten children living in appalling conditions. One adult, a Kubina relative, was cited for medical neglect, but the other allegations were not proven. Again the following year for the same issue, DCS was called to the house. One child was reported to be under “house arrest” for molesting another child, which was new information at the time. There was no evidence to back up these claims. Christian disclosed to his paediatrician the following year that he had been kept locked up overnight. The paediatrician failed to inform DCS of this development, however.

According to the documentation, Choate had been contacted by Merrillville school officials about Christian’s absences. Christian’s principal at Iddings Elementary School, Chris Foltz, had written to Choate to express concern about his son’s excessive absences from class. While illness accounts for the majority of his absences, the cumulative total makes it challenging for him to stay on top of his studies. Also, he misses out on his special education services when he’s not here,” it says in the letter. 6 Foltz suggested that Choate contact him about Christian’s possible absences and health issues. After only a few days, however, Christian was pulled from school and the Choates claimed they would be homeschooling him instead. School officials in Indiana quickly forgot about Christian because they are not required to track home-schooled students or their education unless there is a complaint.

There was a gap somewhere that Christian managed to squeeze through. “It’s like this little boy fell off the face of the earth,” Detective Michelle Weaver of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office said. Christian Choate was let down by a child protection system that was supposed to keep them safe.

In exchange for an 80-year prison sentence, Riley Choate pleaded guilty on December 14 to Class A felony neglect of a dependent causing death and two Class D felonies, removing a body from the scene of a death and denying Christina an education. Choate avoided a trial by jury by entering a guilty plea to the charges against him. Judge Diane Boswell of the Lake County Criminal Court stated, “He trusted you to be the parent and you failed him.” 7 Choate exhibited zero remorse or emotion during his sentencing hearing. Choate and Kubina had already gotten a divorce by the time the sentencing phase rolled around. Because of the divorce, Kubina was able to negotiate a plea deal to a lesser charge of child neglect. Kimberly Kubina received a sentence of between 25 and 35 years in prison.

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