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Thursday, Oct 27, 2016

Judge again rules Jonchuck still not competent to stand trial

CLEARWATER — For the third time since January 2015, a judge says the man charged with first-degree murder for dropping his daughter off a Tampa Bay bridge is not competent to stand trial.

John Jonchuck threw his 5-year-old daughter Phoebe off the lead-up to the Sunshine Skyway just after midnight on Jan. 8, 2015, police say. The girl drowned in Tampa Bay before rescue crews could get to her, according to the autopsy report.

Jonchuck, 26, is currently receiving treatment at a state hospital, where he has been since he was first declared mentally incompetent to stand trial in February 2015.

Jonchuck was not present in the courtroom Tuesday.

Jonchuck has a history of mental health issues, including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and attention deficit disorder. Investigators said he exhibited strange behavior in the day leading to Phoebe’s death.

Assistant state attorney Doug Ellis said in court the Department of Corrections report on Jonchuck’s competency says the Tampa man’s condition is improving, and a formal evaluation on his competency is set to be done in the next two to four weeks.

Lawyers on the case are set to return to court June 7.

Jonchuck was evaluated by two court-appointed doctors following his arrest last year who reported he was not competent to stand trial. His status was reevaluated in September, but his condition hadn’t changed.

If Jonchuck is ultimately deemed competent and found guilty, prosecutors said they plan to seek the death penalty. With treatment, they believe he can be made competent for trial.

The case is being overseen by Pinellas-Pasco Judge Chris Helinger.


Twitter: @Kristenreports