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CROWN POINT, Ind. (CBS) – The probe continues into the bizarre death of Christian Choate – the 13-year-old boy who was kept in a dog cage for a year in a Northwest Indiana trailer park.
In the latest development, a decision has been postponed on whether taxpayer money will be used to fund an independent autopsy on the boy, whose father and stepmother stand charged with murder.
The latest issues have dealt with minutia about which judge will hear a pre-trial motion. Defense attorney Randy Godshalk, who represents Christian’s father, Riley Lowell Choate, told Lake County, Ind., Superior Court Magistrate Kathleen Sullivan on Tuesday that the autopsy issue and a motion to dismiss he filed on behalf of his client should be heard by Judge Diane Ross Boswell, who is expected to preside at Choate’s trial. Boswell has been absent from the bench for a couple weeks.
Boswell had ordered that burial of the boy’s body be delayed until she rules on the independent autopsy request.
Sullivan rescheduled the hearing for July 5, the same date as an omnibus hearing for Choate and Kimberly Leona Kubina.
Riley Choate, 34, of Hammond, Ind., and his wife, Kimberly Kubina, 45, of the Black Oak section of Gary, have pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, battery, neglect of a dependent, obstruction of justice, removal of a body from a death scene, failure to notify authorities of the discovery of a body and failure to report a body.
Riley Choate also faces a habitual offender sentencing enhancement request because of his prior auto theft convictions in 1991 and 1998. Choate faces an additional 30-year sentence if convicted of murder, punishable by 45 to 65 years in prison.
Investigators were tipped off to Christian’s death by Christian’s mother, Aimee Estrada, who said her daughter came to her on May 1 with information about the location of Christian’s body.
The daughter later told investigators that her brother died around April 5, 2009, and that Riley and Kimberly Choate buried Christian behind a home in the 5900 block of West 36th Avenue in Gary on April 8, in the trailer park where they had lived before moving to Kentucky, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Following an investigation, Lake County, Ind., authorities found out further that Christian had been kept in a dog cage secured with seven locks for more than a year by the time he died.
Christian’s sister told prosecutors she was the only one responsible for looking after the boy, and was forced to beat him while recording a video of her actions at Kimberly Choate’s direction.
On April 4, 2009, Christian refused to eat. Prosecutors said Riley got angry and punched him several times in the head before throwing him back in the cage. The following day, the boy’s sister discovered him dead.
The girl said she saw Riley and Kimberly Choate wrap Christian’s body in a two plastic garbage bags and load it into a plastic tote, then haul it off in their van along with several other totes, prosecutors said. Riley Choate said he put a Bible and a cross on the deceased Christian’s chest over the bags before burying him, prosecutors said.
The Northwest Indiana Post-Tribune contributed ot this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire