Christian Choate one of two region boys to die as doctors kept quiet

2011-07-11T00:00:00Z 2013-02-19T13:05:25Z Christian Choate one of two region boys to die as doctors kept quietBy Marisa Kwiatkowski marisa.kwiatkowski@nwi.com, (219) 662-5333 nwitimes.com

Two region boys who died of abuse-related injuries were seen by doctors who knew or suspected mistreatment but didn't report it to authorities, a Times review of state and medical records shows.

Christian Choate died in early 2009 of blunt force trauma injuries and a skull fracture — a year after telling his doctor he was getting locked up at night, according to records in the case. The 13-year-old's body was unearthed by Lake County police in May 2011 from a shallow grave in Gary.

Eighteen-month-old Anthony Mogan died of blunt force trauma injuries in October 2008 in Lowell — three months after his pediatrician treated the first signs of suspected abuse, state records show.

Neither doctor reported the accounts to authorities, according to state investigative records.

While doctors are required by law to communicate suspected abuse to law enforcement, they are unlikely to face penalties for remaining silent, The Times found.

Concerns about Christian

Christian's pediatrician, Dr. Leticia Chy-Koa, treated him for depression, anxiety and attention deficit disorder in the years before his 2009 death, medical records contained in state investigative files show.

Most of the handwritten notes describing Christian's doctor visits are illegible, but some of the records state he was soiling his pants.

In one 2008 visit, Christian told the doctor he was getting locked up at night, the records show. But Chy-Koa never reported to authorities what Christian told her, according to Indiana Department of Child Services records.

When contacted at home, Chy-Koa declined to comment on Christian's medical treatment.

"I sent the records to the Department of Child Services, and that should be sufficient," she told The Times. "There's no reason for me to take calls from you."

Chy-Koa no longer works for the Highland medical practice where medical records indicate she saw Christian as a patient.

Prior to a court gag order issued last week, Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter told The Times that prosecutors have discussed whether to charge Chy-Koa for failing to report Christian's family to authorities, but a two-year statute of limitations may prohibit charges.

Concerns about Anthony

Anthony's pediatrician, Dr. Reena John, documented her concerns multiple times in the months leading up to his October 2008 death — first when he showed up in her office covered in mosquito bites with a skull fracture and again when he wasn't using his left arm, medical records show.

But she told an investigator she "decided to watch to see if anything else happened" before reporting Anthony's injuries to the Indiana Department of Child Services.

Within a month and a half, Anthony was dead.

John could not be reached this week for comment, but she previously told The Times that she asked the family to keep Anthony safe.

John never was criminally charged for not reporting her concerns to authorities, court records show.

Crime and punishment

In Indiana, failure to report child abuse or neglect is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

But Dr. Antoinette Laskey, a forensic pediatrician with Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health and chairwoman of the state's Child Fatality Review Team, said she can't think of a case in Indiana in which a doctor has been charged for failing to report child abuse or neglect.

She said prosecutors in several Indiana counties have criminally charged school officials for not reporting their concerns, but Laskey said she is unaware of that happening to any doctors.

"If you have a criminal penalty yet never apply it, what do you do?" Laskey asked. "There is no reason for anyone to do their job when you see other people egregiously violating (the law) and not being punished for it."

Laskey said doctors who fail to report their concerns also may face civil penalties through multimillion-dollar lawsuits.

Officials in Lake and Porter counties said they don't believe anyone in the region has ever been charged with or prosecuted for failing to report child abuse or neglect. The law making that a crime was enacted nearly 15 years ago.

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