CROWN POINT | It remained unclear Tuesday afternoon who will take custody of the body of teenage abuse victim Christian Choate.
P.J. Adams, a spokesman for the Lake County coroner's office, said they were awaiting details of Criminal Court Judge Diane Boswell's order before the office releases the boy's remains.
"We are probably going to have to let a court decide who should be the caretaker for this body because the natural mother doesn't have custody, the father is incarcerated, and I don't know if it's up to (the Indiana Department of Child Services)," Adams said.
Boswell ordered the body's release Tuesday but didn't specify in open court to whom. Her written order wasn't available late Tuesday. Boswell has issued a gag order, forbidding anyone involved in the case from speaking publicly about it.
The boy's father, Riley Choate, 39, of Hammond, and stepmother Kimberly Kubina, 46, of Gary, have been held in the county jail since being charged in early May with protracted neglect that caused the 13-year-old boy's death in early 2009. The two defendants are pleading not guilty.
Police said Aimee Estrada, mother of Christian Choate, gave up custody of Christian several years ago when she left Riley Choate because he was abusive.
The Indiana Department of Child Services was called to investigate allegations of abuse against Riley Choate several years ago, before the boy's death. Ann Houseworth, spokeswoman for the agency, declined to comment because of the gag order.
Shelia Kirby, funeral director for the Ridgelawn Funeral Home of Calumet Township where Estrada held a memorial service for Christian on May 20, said she is remaining flexible about planning for the body's internment or cremation.
"If Mom takes control of the body, her wishes are cremation. If somebody else takes control, we are here for whatever they want. There were tentative arrangements made back in May. We are going to reconvene with the family and finalize everything very soon," Kirby said.