Stepmom of boy kept in dog cage gets 35 years
BY RUTH ANN KRAUSE Sun-Times Media February 19, 2013 1:16PM
Updated: February 20, 2013 1:42AM
The stepmother of a 13-year-old boy who was beaten, starved and forced to live in a dog cage was sentenced Tuesday to 35 years in prison.
Kimberly Leona Kubina, 47, told Lake Superior Court Judge Diane Ross Boswell that she was filled with remorse for not taking action to stop the abuse involving her stepson, Christian Choate. Kubina said her ex-husband, Riley Choate, was intimidating and abusive and she feared that the other children she was caring for, including several nieces and nephews, would be taken away by welfare authorities.
“In our house, whatever Riley said was law,” she said, adding that she did intervene when the beatings were severe. Kubina said she suffers from nightmares of what occurred and told the judge that the other children who witnessed the abuse bear emotional scars.
Choate, 40, is serving an 80-year sentence for neglect of a dependent and being an habitual offender.
Deputy prosecutors Michael Woods and Michael Toth presented testimony from two Lake County police detectives involved in the case – Jeff Minchuk and Michelle Dvorscak. Minchuk measured the cage – 37 inches long, 24 inches tall and 26 inches wide – that witnesses said Christian Choate lived in for six to eight months before his death on April 2, 2009.
The boy’s emaciated body wasn’t found until more than two years later, buried underneath a plywood floor in a shed in the Colfax Mobile Home Park where the family lived. Dvorscak said the boy’s body was found about two feet below the surface, wrapped in blankets inside a garbage bag. A Bible and cross lay on top the boy, whom Kubina referred to in phone calls from the jail as “the little bastard” and other derogatory terms.
Defense attorney Linda Kollintzas said her client and Choate were living in a five-bedroom home in Merrillville with his two children, her daughter, their son and several of Kubina’s nieces and nephews when the couple discovered Christian and a younger boy playing the “hump game” in a bedroom. Christian had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder from prior abuse, and authorities recommended he receive inpatient treatment, but Choate decided “he would deal with it on his own,” Kollintzas said. Christian started to sneak out of his basement bedroom, prompting Choate to begin confining him.
In 2007, Kubina lost her job, and Choate was injured at work, which caused them to lose their home in Merrillville. The family moved to the mobile home park, where Kubina cared for her elderly grandmother who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. At one point, there were eight to 10 people living in the two-bedroom mobile home. Choate put his daughter, Christina, in charge of Christian’s care.
Kubina, who had agreed to testify against Choate in exchange for a sentence of 25 to 35 years, ultimately closed her eyes to what was happening in her home, Kollintzas said.
Woods argued for the maximum 35-year sentence, pointing to the 12-cubic-foot space that was Christian’s cell and the inhumane abuse and torture at the hands of his father, which Kubina allowed to happen in front of other children living in the home.