On Tuesday in Largo, Florida, a jury found John Jonchuck guilty of the first-degree murder of his daughter, Phoebe. He was sentenced to life in prison.
For more than four weeks, jurors heard the various witness accounts regarding Jonchuck’s mental history.
According to his public defenders, he was not of sound mind during the killing because of the voices in his head and his delusions. They built their case on his recollections, such as hearing an old Swedish Bible knocking, and his thought that he was God or the Pope.
However, the jury did not buy the defense’s explanation, and concluded that he was sane and had planned the murder.
Prosecutors argued that he had killed Phoebe out of revenge, so that she would be placed in the custody of her mother.
The jury’s decision came four years since the murder of Phoebe. On January 8, 2015, Jonchuck had thrown her body off the Dick Misener Bridge and into Tampa Bay.
According to friends and family, Jonchuck had always been troubled and was prone to violent outbursts. Psychologists who testified at the trial attributed his abandonment and attachment issues to the fact that his parents had split up when he was young. His family had taken him to a psychiatrist, and was prescribed drugs at age 5. At 17, he climbed onto the roof of his house and slit his arms. This was the first time that he was committed to a mental institution.
Jonchuck had met Michelle Kerr, Phoebe’s mother, when he was high. The two never got married, and he filed injunctions so that she couldn’t see Phoebe.
Before Phoebe died, he had gone to a custody lawyer and made a number of statements, including that he was the creator. The lawyer had then called child protection services, who let him go with Phoebe. Hours later, Phoebe was dead.
Based on their sessions with Jonchuck, psychologists determined that he was sane and aware of his actions. Jonchuck never took the stand.
When he was asked by Emily Lazarou, a psychiatrist, how he was feeling, his response was slow and slightly slurred, “Kind of sad.” When asked why, he replied, “Because I was her father and she loved me so much and I always told her I’d never let anything happen to her. And I did.”