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Dad charged after boy’s body found under concrete slab in Gary

Christian Choate

Christian Choate

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Updated: June 7, 2011 12:36AM

Wrapped in a blanket and plastic garbage bags, 13-year-old Christian Choate’s broken body was hidden for two years under concrete in the Colfax Mobile Home Park in Gary.

When Lake County, Ind. crime lab technicians uncovered his body Wednesday, a Bible still lay on his chest, just as his father, Riley Choate, told authorities it would be.

“It was a very gruesome scene,” Lake County Sheriff John Buncich said Thursday.

Riley Choate, 39, of Hammond, was arrested on a larceny warrant at his girlfriend’s home in Kentucky. He has been charged with removal of a body from a death scene, failure to notify authorities of the discovery of a dead body and failure to report a dead body, but Buncich said additional charges are expected after his investigators question other Choate relatives in Kentucky.

Choate on Wednesday led police to his son’s body under a shed at the mobile home across the street from his family’s former home at 5930 W. 36th Ave.

An autopsy completed Thursday shows Christopher died from “sustained blunt force trauma to his body with internal bleeding and a skull fracture,” court records said. His death has been ruled a homicide.

The boy’s mother, Aimee Eriks Estrada, who lives in Northwest Indiana, called 911 Sunday night and told police her daughter, Christine, recently told her about Christian’s death in early April 2009.

Police began searching the area Monday, using cadaver dogs provided by the Chicago Police Department, but had no success until Choate agreed to cooperate.

Choate told police that after determining Christian was dead, he decided to bury the boy.

“If I had it to do it over, I’d have just called. But I was freaking out,” he told police earlier this week. Buncich told reporters Choate did not admit responsibility for the boy’s death.

Christine Choate, 17, told police she had noticed her brother had become ill and had stopped eating, then later saw he was not breathing. Her stepmother, Kimberly Choate, told her to try to resuscitate him, but he was already dead, authorities said.

The girl said she saw Riley and Kimberly Choate take the body out of their home, then return “covered in mud.”

Kimberly Choate is no longer with Riley Choate. Buncich said she was being held for questioning and also has a larceny warrant issued in Kentucky.

Christine and Christian Choate had been living with their father since July 2005. Estrada said she left Riley Choate about that time because he had been abusing her, but agreed to let him have custody of the children, court records state. She told police she had not seen either child in several years.

Christian was never reported missing to any police agency, and shortly after he died, his family moved to Kentucky.

Gary police said they had received a tip with less detailed information about a missing boy more than a week ago and were following leads when they learned from reporters that Lake County had uncovered a body.

“A lot of relatives are involved in this,” Buncich said. Investigators are in Kentucky taking statements and expect to return with additional information and possibly more suspects, he said.

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