Dad, stepmom charged in murder of boy found under concrete slab
By Ruth Ann Krause Sun-Times Media firstname.lastname@example.org May 10, 2011 12:36PM
Riley Choate and Kimberly Kubina were charged with murder, battery, neglect of a dependant and criminal confinement in the death of Christian Choate, 13, whose body was found under a concrete slab in Indiana.
Updated: August 25, 2011 12:31AM
Locked in a dog cage naked or chained to a bed frame, 13-year-old Christian Choate wouldn’t make much noise because if he did, the beatings would get worse.
The boy, found buried in a shallow grave near his former mobile home one week ago, had been abused for two to three years, police said.
Murder, battery, neglect of a dependent and criminal confinement charges were filed in Lake County, Ind. Tuesday against the boy’s father, Riley Lowell Choate, 39, of Hammond, and stepmother, Kimberly Leona Kubina, 45, of the Black Oak section of Gary. They will appear for initial hearings Wednesday morning.
Witnesses told police that Choate would slap Christian in the face after family members alleged Christian had molested a male relative. The beatings, which were witnessed by other children, grew more severe as Choate and his now ex-wife argued and Choate took it out on Christian, court records state.
When the family lived in the 7200 block of Polk Street in Merrillville, Choate and Kubina would lock Christian in a room in the basement. After the family moved to the Colfax Mobile Home Park in Black Oak, Riley put Christian in a dog cage bought from a neighbor and secured with seven locks. A witness told police Christian lived in the dog cage at their home in the 5900 block of West 36th Avenue every day for more than a year, until his death on April 5, 2009.
During that time, the boy’s parents would have his 17-year-old sister chain him to a bed frame that was leaning up against a dresser. The girl told police she was responsible for feeding Christian, taking him to the bathroom, forcing him to exercise or physically punishing him for failing to follow orders. She told police Choate would abuse her if she didn’t perform her duties properly.
“He needs to be locked up. He’s a dog,” Kubina told the other children, court records state.
Some beatings videotaped
As the beatings escalated, Christian would be denied food and confined naked except for a diaper, sometimes gagged with a sock and duct tape. The other children would try to sneak him food. Ice-cold baths twice a week would prompt his screams. The boy’s hands and feet began to turn purple from being tied to the bed frame.
The girl said she would strike the boy and once choked him until he turned blue, and used her stepmother’s video camera at Kubina’s direction to record the beatings. Those recordings were later recorded over, the girl said, but police searched Kubina’s home in Kentucky and recovered several computers, digital cameras, cell phones and other electronic storage devices.
On the day before Christian died, he refused to eat. His father became enraged and punched him in his head with full force several times before throwing him back in the cage, authorities said. On April 5, 2009, the girl told police she woke up and tried to feed her brother some cereal, but he refused, so she slapped him across the face twice and put him in the cage. She continued to check on him and eventually noticed he wasn’t breathing and called her stepmother and aunt, who had gone to pick up one of the other children who got in trouble at school. The girl said she attempted CPR on Christian with an air mattress pump.
At Kubina’s direction, the girl told police, she wrapped Christian in a yellow blanket, put him inside two black plastic bags and secured them in duct tape. Authorities alleged that Kubina and Choate buried the boy under a shed across the street from his former home in Black Oak. Police found the body under a layer of concrete, covered with lime and a Bible resting on his chest.
Cage meant for a dog
After the boy died, Kubina told the children Christian had run away, but a witness recalled Kubina asking Choate if he thought they would get caught. “What are you talking about?” Choate responded as he played racing games on the computer. “You know, the thing about Christian,” Kubina is quoted as saying.
Kubina told the children that Christian running away “is a family thing and we’re going to work through it. This goes to the grave,” court documents said.
Christian’s mother, Aimee Estrada, said she left Choate after he began abusing her. Choate had custody of their two children in July 2005, and Estrada said she was not allowed to visit her children after last seeing Christian in 2005. She contacted police May 1 after learning from her daughter that Christian had died.
Lori Wingard, the Choates’ former neighbor at Colfax Mobile Home Park, said Kubina approached her about buying the dog cage for $15. Wingard had sold her Alaskan malamute and the new owners weren’t taking the cage with them. When she learned the cage was used to confine Christian, Wingard said she cried and cried. “I had no idea,” she said.
On Tuesday, Choate pleaded not guilty to earlier charges of 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.
Contributing: Lori Caldwell