Coroner: Blows fatal to slain teen

2011-09-08T19:00:00Z 2011-10-13T11:35:15Z Coroner: Blows fatal to slain teenBy Susan Brown susan.brown@nwi.com, (219) 662-5325 nwitimes.com
September 08, 2011 7:00 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | Testifying at a bail hearing Thursday, Dr. Young Kim, of the Lake County coroner's office, told the court the remains of slain Christian Choate weighed a mere 28 pounds.

While he could not pinpoint what caused the blows that were still seen on the remains at autopsy, Kim said, "Something happened."

Whether that "something" were blows from a fist or an instrument, Kim said the boy died of blunt force trauma to the head and chest. His skull was fractured at the back of the head. Bruising and internal bleeding were evident on much of the boy's body, including the chest, abdominal area and both arms.

Kim indicated the boy's internal organs were well enough preserved to examine at autopsy. He could not say how long the body had been in a state of decomposition.

Decomposition can be affected by such factors as outdoor temperature, he said.

Witnesses have put the boy's death occurring in April 2009, two years prior to the remains being found in a shallow grave in a Black Oak mobile home park. Authorities had been tipped by the boy's natural mother who had been told of the death by the boy's sister, Christina.

Both children had been placed in the custody of their father, Riley Choate, in 2005, following a custody battle.

Choate, 39, and his estranged wife, Kimberly Kubina, 46, are charged with myriad crimes, including murder, in connection with the boy's death.

The couple are seeking to be freed on bond from the Lake County Jail.

Thursday was the first of possibly three hearings on the matter before Lake Criminal Court Magistrate Kathleen Sullivan.

Also testifying Thursday was one of the leading detectives on the case, Detective Jeff Minchuk.

Attorneys led Minchuk through his interviews with witnesses contending the boy had suffered several years of severe abuse, including being regularly imprisoned in a small dog cage.

Early questioning by Riley Choate's attorney, Randy Godshalk, focused on Minchuk's questioning of Christina.

The boy's sister, now 17, told police her father and stepmother had given her the task of disciplining her brother, including locking him in the dog cage and other physical punishment.

Exhibits included several photos of the dog cage.

Sullivan set the next hearing dates as Oct. 17 and Nov. 17.

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