Mother seeks custody of Christina Choate

2011-05-26T22:00:00Z 2012-05-01T13:55:54Z Mother seeks custody of Christina ChoateBy Susan Brown, (219) 662-5325

CROWN POINT | The custody and whereabouts of Christina Choate, the sister of slain Christian Choate, remained unclear Thursday.

Court documents filed by Aimee Estrada, Christina's mother, indicate the girl's custody may be fought across state lines.

The documents show Estrada's attorney, Mindy Heidel, of Merrillville, filed an emergency motion for custody May 13.

Heidel argues Christina's father, Riley Choate -- now charged along with his wife, Kimberly Kubina-Choate, with murder in 13-year-old Christian's death -- began intimidating Estrada in 2005 after gaining custody of the children, according to court documents.

Riley Choate is alleged to have moved many times so that in 2007, Estrada, of Calumet Township, completely lost track of the children's whereabouts.

On May 1, Estrada's husband, Silas Estrada, received a telephone call from Robert Hamby, the brother of Kubina-Choate, saying Christian had been murdered and Christina accused her father of killing him, the documents state. A body believed to be Christian's was pulled from a shallow grave May 4 at a mobile home park in Gary's Black Oak section.

Hamby is reported to have told Estrada a Kentucky court had granted Hamby temporary guardianship.

At the time, Christina had been living in Kentucky with Hamby, not a blood relative, for about four weeks after being abandoned by Kubina-Choate, according to documents.

Heidel argues it's not in Christina's best interest to be in the custody of a family member of her brother's accused killer.

According to the documents, Christina contends her stepmother's family in Kentucky has "put a price on her head." She also wants a maternal aunt to call the police if anything happens to her.

However, Hamby contends Christina was safe while living with him, and he was actually the target of threats, not Christina.

"I might be Kim's brother by birth but by choice, right now I am not," Hamby told The Times on Thursday. "I'm the one that turned her in (to police), and I want nothing to do with her. I just want what is best for Christina."

Hamby has hired a lawyer in Kentucky to deal with the custody proceedings.

Court documents filed by Heidel indicate a hearing on the matter was set for May 19 in Lake Juvenile Court.

But the outcomes of that hearing and another on May 24 were unavailable Thursday.

Heidel did not return a message left Thursday with her office.

Hammond attorney Scott Yahne, again serving as Christina's court-appointed guardian ad litem, cited confidentiality rules against disclosing juvenile court proceedings.

Yahne was first appointed guardian ad litem to Christina and Christian when Riley Choate successfully pursued custody of the children in 2004.

Yahne said his involvement ended in 2005, and that he has had no further contact until recently.

"I understand that people want answers about the process of how this tragedy occurred," Yahne said.

"However, what I might like to share and what our community might like to hear could undermine Christian's obtaining justice and Christina being given the support and help needed to get through all of this," he said.

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