Sheriff: Many People Failed Christian Choate
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(CBS) — It has been called a horror story and one needing to be remembered and told in order to prevent it from happening again to another child. Christian Choate was a young boy beaten “purple” according to court documents. He was caged and buried when he died.
Brad Edwards looks into all the failures — all the ways this boy could have been saved.
A gag order initially silenced the story about the boy’s suffering at the hands of his father Riley Choate and step-mother Kimberly Kubina. Both are serving time in connection with Christian Choate’s death. From an Indiana prison, Riley Choate speaks out and points the finger, saying he is not the only one who failed his son.
“I just want the truth, for people to tell the truth,” said Choate.
A plea from a man whose son died after a year in a cage. Who at 13-years-old, weighed less than 50 pounds. A boy so brutalized, court records say Christian Choate’s “body was purple”.
“I’m not taking responsibility for the murder,” said Choate.
It is a case where no one seems to take responsibility.
“I can’t change it now,” said Choate who was sentenced to 80 years in prison in Indiana, where you get a day off for every day served. “I’m hoping to get out one day.”
That is not justice says Lake County Indiana Sheriff John Buncich, “Not in my eyes, no.”
The case lives with him and every investigator in his office.
“I always refer to this,” said Buncich. “I say, ‘Are you sure?’.”
Christian Choate was buried under a shed for two and half years. He was put there by his father and stepmother.
When people asked about the missing boy, the family had a story to tell says Sheriff Buncich.
“They were just told that he was, ‘Oh, oh he ran away,’” said Buncich. “Ask some questions. Show some concern.”
When asked how many people knew this secret, Choate said, “There was quite a few people.”
Sheriff John Buncich blames many for failing to save the boy.
“Child protective services, the school system, neighbors, relatives,” said Buncich.
The Indiana Department of Child Services visited Choate households more than 10 times in Christian’s life. In 2008, in the midst of the abuse, DCS reported all the children “appeared to be doing well”.
A bruised and malnourished Christian told a doctor he was being locked up. Nothing was done.
Christian stopped going to school. Again, nothing was done.
No one seemed to miss him during the two years he was gone.
“That, that blows my mind,” said Choate.
When asked why more people were not charged in this case, Sheriff Buncich said, “Good question, good question.”
Sheriff Buncich says the unearthing of Christian, in May 2011, brought tears to law enforcement.
“It was just terrible,” said Buncich. “There was even one of our officers had to under-go counseling afterwards. I mean it was just, you know, horrific.”
He says Riley Choate’s behavior at that time was unusual.
“His attitude was really … it was like ‘So what?’” said Buncich. “Wanted to bum a cigarette. Just by passing he says ‘Oh, by the way, I put him with a Bible on his chest.’ Like it made it okay in his mind.”
For two and half years, at Ridgelawn Cemetery in Gary, Christian Choate’s grave was unmarked.
“Not good,” said Buncich.
Now, to remember the boy who so many forgot, a headstone was ordered by a woman from Washington. She read about the case and raised $2,000 for a headstone which will be placed on Friday.
The prosecutor denied a request for an interview, as did DCS. No one at DCS was ever disciplined in this case.
DCS and the DCS Ombudsman Bureau conducted investigations into all that went wrong, and what should be done differently. They said they have reports, but refused to release them.