CROWN POINT | A teenage victim of years of abuse finally may be laid to rest two years after his death.
Lake Criminal Court Judge Diane Boswell on Tuesday released the body of 13-year-old Christian Choate three months after it was discovered in a shallow grave beneath concrete in the floor of a mobile home storage shed in Gary's Black Oak neighborhood.
She did so over the objections of his father's attorney, who wants the boy's body kept in storage for an independent autopsy, which could dispute the official cause of Christian's death as a homicide in early 2009 from blunt force trauma and a skull fracture.
Boswell denied the defense request for a new autopsy.
The father, Riley Choate, 39, of Hammond, and stepmother Kimberly Kubina, 46, of Gary, are pleading not guilty to murder, battery, neglect and obstruction of justice charges that their mistreatment caused the boy's death.
The two were in the courtroom Tuesday. They showed no emotion when the judge ruled. Some family members in the audience left immediately afterward and declined to comment.
No trial date is set in the matter, but lawyers for the defendants, who have been in jail for three months, are demanding bail release from pretrial custody on grounds the evidence against them is too weak to support murder convictions.
The court has scheduled a hearing, beginning Sept. 8, for the prosecution to present testimony proving the murder charges are viable.
The case has drawn national media attention since the victim's biological mother called police this spring with her suspicions the boy was a victim of homicidal neglect.
Police allege Christina Choate, the victim's older sister, has said she watched as her brother was beaten by their father and stepmother and sometimes she was ordered to beat the boy herself. Police said the victim spent the last year of his life locked in a dog cage.
Police allege the defendants secretly buried the boy, and Kubina told people he had run away. The sister kept silent until she found an opportunity to alert other family members.