Father who threw 5-year old daughter off a bridge "a demon".

Mourners adorned in clothing from the whole spectrum of the rainbow wept during this five-year old’s funeral yesterday. Pink balloons, flowers and a teddy bear sat on her coffin as her family mourned the loss of life that even police are struggling to understand.

Five-year old Phoebe Jonchuck had long, curly hair. She had a wide smile that engulfed all who met her. She, like most five-year old girls loved princesses and drawing – cats in particular.

Phoebe Jonchuck

She was the light of her family.

The girl who made them complete.

She, like many five-year olds hated having her hair washed, and in particular she hated baths and water.

But it was water where her life ended.

This tragic irony lost on no one. For Phoebe Jonchuck is now dead, gone a week after her 25-year old father threw her off a bridge to her death.

 Phoebe’s tragic death

News reports came out thick and fast last Thursday night in the US. A police officer had seen a male driving erratically.

It was reported that he had hurled an object from his car, off a bridge into the icy water of the river below.

Phoebe lived with her father and his parents.

There were fears it was a child.

The fears turned to reality.

ABC News reports that the office saw the man, John Jonchuck from Florida in the US, hurl the little girl from the Dick Misener Bridge at the mouth of Tampa Bay.

Dick Misener Bridge where Phoebe died.

The police officer who witnessed this father throw his daughter into the swirling water immediately climbed down a service ladder on the bridge in an attempt to save her.

Jonchuck drove off again, after  30 minute chase he was finally arrested.

Police said they believe Phoebe was alive at the time she was hurled from the bridge but drowned in the water below.

Erratic behaviour

Tragically reports of John Jonchuck’s erratic behavior are now beginning to emerge.

John Jonchuck

WFTV reports that just hours before Phoebe’s death Jonchuck was in his lawyer’s office to sign custody paperwork, with Phoebe in tow.

Genevieve Torres said that he “rambled about his attorney being God.” When he left she called emergency services.

“He’s nuts,” Torres told the dispatcher.

“He’s out of his mind, and he has a minor child with him. He’s driving to a church now, and I should have kept the child.”

The police responding to the call found John Jonchuk at church, and after talking to him Phoebe found her to be safe.

And it wasn’t just the police, the Department of Children and Families hotline reported that they received a call only days before Phoebe’s death voicing concerns that her ex, John Jonchuck was unstable.

The department noted the call for a caseworker to handle at a later date. But as we know, this never eventuated.

 “He was definitely a Jekyll and Hyde”

Phoebe’s mother, Michelle Kerr told WFTS that she allowed Phoebe to live with her father in July because she was unable to care for her daughter due to her multiple sclerosis.

Michelle Kerr, Phoebe’s mum.

Her mother said there had been a history of domestic violence in her relationship and that Jonchuck and her had broken up when Phoebe was born.


The New York Times reports that Phoebe lives with Jonchuck and his parents. 29-year old Kerr said, “Never did I think he’d do this. I thought it was for the best.”

Kerr has told the US media that she knew her ex-partner suffered from bipolar disorder and he had a history of going off his medication.

“He was definitely a Jekyll and Hyde.” she said, weeping in a television interview.

“He was a demon, I felt, like a devil.”

 Had nothing to say

In court on Monday John Jonchuck facing murder charges sat cradling his head, mute.

The 25-year old refused to answer questions.

Jonchuck had nothing to say.

It had been four days since his initial court appearance where he told the judge that he wanted to leave his fate “in the hands of God.”

Instead of God the judge assigned John Jonchuck a lawyer.

“I’m pretty sure God’s not going to be representing you in this case” said the Judge.

“ You’re going to be standing trial.”

 Darcey Freeman

As the news of the tragic death of Phoebe made headlines here in Australia we were reminded of another little girl.

Darcey Freedman died in 2009.

Four-year old Darcey Freedman was thrown off Melbourne’s Westgate Bridge in peak hour traffic in 2009.

Her father, 37-year-old Arthur Freeman had pulled over in peak-hour traffic on the way to her first day of school.

He carried her to the railing and dropped her 58 metres to her death as her two brothers aged two and six, watched on.

Two years later he was sentenced to life in prison for her murder.

Just moments before he killed his four-year old daughter Freeman had spoken to his ex-wife, who was waiting at the school to help send their daughter off to her first day. “Say goodbye to your children,” he said. “You will never see your children again.”

 Michelle Kerr engagement

Michelle Kerr told local media in Florida that just days before Phoebe’s death she had told John Johncuck she was getting remarried.

She said he did not take the news well.  The last time she saw her daughter alive was Christmas Eve.

 Phoebe’s funeral

Yesterday, nearly one week on from the death of five-year old Phoebe her family and friends gathered for her funeral.

Her grandmother and kindergarten teacher spoke of her light and life.

Phoebe’s classmates mourned her yesterday.

Of how her friends at school thought she was now in the clouds, at “cloud school”. Tampa Bay News reports that mourners wore the colours of the rainbow with zebra-striped purple ribbons pinned to their chests in her memory.

They gazed at her casket covered in pink tulle and flowers and adorned with her favourite doll and surrounded by pink balloons and they wept.

It was a day of grief and of struggling to understand what had happened to this beautiful, vivacious little girl.

Jonchuck’s next court appearance, on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer and aggravated fleeing and eluding, is in February.

We will keep you updated.

If you or someone you know needs help please phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on  1300 22 4636.