ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — A Florida man driving toward a bridge over Tampa Bay pulled his car over early Thursday, took his 5-year-old daughter from the back seat, pressed her head to his chest, and tossed her over the rail, according to police in St. Petersburg.
John Nicholas Jonchuck, 25, faces first-degree murder charges. His daughter, Phoebe, fell about 60 feet over the Sunshine Skyway bridge into the bay just after midnight, St. Petersburg police Chief Anthony Holloway said at a news conference.
An officer heading home after his shift saw Jonchuck’s vehicle speed past at nearly 100 mph, Holloway said. The officer prepared to pull the PT Cruiser over, but by the time he caught up with it, Jonchuck had pulled over on the side of the road.
Holloway said Jonchuck got out and started toward the officer, who pulled his weapon. But Jonchuck went around to the passenger side of the car and got the child out.
The officer “thought he heard the child scream, but he wasn’t sure,” Holloway said. The officer then saw the man throw the child over, into the strong bay current.
Her body was recovered about a mile from the bridge and hour and a half later. Rescue crews tried to revive her, but she was pronounced dead at 2:44 a.m.
Back on the road, officers said Jonchuck got back in the car and headed south, crossing the bridge on Interstate 275.
“The suspect drove off,” Holloway said. “He just drove off.”
Two other officers who were near the bridge started following Jonchuck into neighboring Manatee County.
Holloway said Jonchuck turned his blinker on and stopped before starting again and driving toward deputies. He then headed the wrong way on the interstate, going back toward the bridge. Deputies put out traffic spikes to stop the vehicle.
Jonchuck was arrested and brought back to St. Petersburg for questioning. He’s being held without bond on the murder charge.
“He lawyered up,” Holloway said. “He really didn’t want to talk.”
He is scheduled for an initial court appearance Thursday afternoon.
Jail records didn’t list the name of Jonchuck’s attorney.
In addition to the murder charge, Jonchuck also faces charges of aggravated assault with a motor vehicle on a law enforcement officer and aggravated fleeing and eluding police.
Authorities said Jonchuck filed a domestic violence report against the child’s mother last month, but it wasn’t granted. He had custody of the child, and they lived with his father in Tampa. Authorities didn’t release information about the girl’s mother.
An autopsy is pending.
(Photo Source: AP)