Nevertheless, notwithstanding Christian Choate’s notoriety with child protection authorities, the system designed to ensure the safety of children completely failed him. Before passing away, his cruel father and stepmother abandoned him to die alone in a dog cage.
In May 2011, a woman in Gary, Indiana, provided law enforcement with information regarding the whereabouts of the remains of a child accused of homicide two years prior. A disconcerting revelation was made in a mobile home park located in the 5900 block of West 36th Avenue, where they had followed the hints. Christian Choate, age 13, was discovered deceased with his remains entombed beneath a concrete slab in a shed. In 2009, he was mur*dered by his stepmother Kimberly Kubina and father Riley Choate. Christina Choate, the sister of Christian, mustered the bravery to apprise their mother of the situation surrounding Christian’s demise, and the mother immediately contacted the police.
The discovery of Christian’s body revealed a sombre past of child neglect and abuse. In 2004, Aimee Eriks Estrada was unable to retain custody of the children following the accusation of molesty against Christian and his sister Christina by her live-in boyfriend. Christian also lodged a complaint with the authorities alleging that his mother engaged in inappropriate physical contact with him. Despite the allegations of child abuse against Riley Choate in August of that year, Christian and Christina were welcomed into their home by Choate and his wife Kimberly Kubina. Although DCS officials determined that Choate had physically abused the nieces of Kubina who were residing with them, they were unable to locate any evidence to substantiate the allegations of abuse. The report cited “inappropriate discipline” as the cause for the bruises on both girls. 1 As a result of the maltreatment, the nieces were placed in foster care for an extended duration. Choate and Kubina were reunited with their children shortly after being granted custody of Christian and Christina subsequent to their release.
Twelve individuals were crammed into the minuscule mobile home, and young Christian’s situation rapidly deteriorated.
Kubina and Choate both vented their ire towards Christian. The adversity that Christian would be subjected to is merely the proverbial tip of the iceberg. One consequence of his mistreatment was the affixing of a chain to a sturdy bedpost. While bound to the bed, he would be struck with a metal pole and subjected to punches and kicks. 2 Christian was subjected not only to severe physical abuse but also to severe starvation. His customary fare included ramen for breakfast, leftovers for lunch, and dinner. Christian endeavoured to pilfer food as an ultimate recourse.
Kubina purchased a dog enclosure from their neighbour for $15, and Christian was forced to reside there when she wasn’t abusing him. Kubina would occasionally administer additional punishment by spray painting his chained hands black. As a result of tying his hands to the top of the cage, this occurred. Christian was granted only chore-related visits from his cell, and he was required to beg for his release. Christian was unable to leave the cage, which was stationed next to Choate’s computer, even to use the restroom. Choate played video games while daily observing his son deteriorate in a miniature enclosure.
Christian questioned the adults’ decision to prohibit him from interacting with other children on a regular basis. With only a pen and paper to occupy his time, he was not distracted. 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 de*ath 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.
“In all honesty, nobody will miss him. Choate responded, “We shall simply bury him,” when queried about the strategy for disposing of his son. 5 He was entirely accurate. Choate and Kubina informed family and neighbours that Christian had escaped, but they failed to file a report of a missing person; consequently, the authorities did not become aware of Christian’s whereabouts for two years.
Regrettably, despite Christian’s extensive record of interactions with child welfare authorities, no timely intervention occurred to avert his brutal mu*rder, as the investigation into the case unveiled. DCS initiated an investigation into the Choates’ residence in 2007 subsequent to receiving reports detailing the deplorable living conditions of ten children. A relative of the Kubina family was cited for medical neglect as an adult, but the remaining allegations remained unproven. Again the following year, DCS was dispatched to the residence to address the same issue. The occurrence of one child being placed under “house arrest” on suspicion of molesting another child was unprecedented at the time. No evidence was presented in support of these assertions. The subsequent year, Christian revealed to his paediatrician that he had been confined overnight. However, the paediatrician neglected to notify DCS regarding this development.
Documentation indicates that Merrillville school officials had communicated with Choate regarding Christian’s absences. Chris Foltz, the principal of Iddings Elementary School and the father of Christian, had written to Choate to convey his apprehension regarding his son’s habitual tardiness to class. Although the majority of his absences are due to illness, the cumulative total poses a significant obstacle for him in maintaining academic progress. Additionally, his special education services are disrupted when he is absent, the letter states. 6 Foltz recommended that Choate communicate with him regarding the potential absences and health concerns of Christian. However, Christian was removed from school after only a few days, and the Choates announced that they would be homeschooling him. Due to the fact that school officials in Indiana are not obligated to monitor the academic progress of home-schooled students unless a formal complaint is lodged, Christian was promptly forgotten.
Christian somehow managed to squeeze through a gap in some location. “It’s as if this young boy vanished from the face of the earth,” said Lake County Sheriff’s Office Detective Michelle Weaver. Christian Choate was not safeguarded by the child protection system that was designed to do so.
Riley Choate entered a guilty plea on December 14th, agreeing to an 80-year prison sentence, in addition to two Class D felonies: neglect of a dependent resulting in de*ath (Class A felony) and removing a body from the scene of a de*ath and denying Christina an education (both Class D offences). Choate averted a jury trial by pleading guilty to the charges that were brought against him. The Lake County Criminal Court’s Judge Diane Boswell remarked, “He placed his trust in you as the parent, but you betrayed him.” 7 Choate displayed neither remorse nor emotion throughout the sentencing hearing. Choate and Kubina had finalised their divorce prior to the commencement of the sentencing phase. Kubina was able to negotiate a plea bargain for a reduced charge of child neglect as a result of the divorce. The length of Kimberly Kubina’s prison term was estimated to be between 25 and 35 years.