CROWN POINT | Kimberly Kubina, stepmother to slain teen Christian Choate, pleaded guilty to neglect of a dependent Wednesday.
Kubina, 46, agreed to serve a sentence of 25 to 35 years in prison when sentencing is argued. The hearing is currently set for Aug. 28.
The plea deal requires Kubina's cooperation in the proceedings against ex-husband Riley Choate, 39. The couple's divorce was finalized in December.
Choate and Kubina were charged with murder and multiple felonies and misdemeanors last year in the death of Choate's son, 13-year-old Christian. The boy's body was found buried in a Black Oak mobile home park two years after his disappearance, following a tip to law enforcement.
The couple appeared in court Tuesday before Lake Criminal Court Judge Diane Boswell, who reset the couple's murder trial for Aug. 13. The couple's trial had been scheduled to begin May 14.
In pleading guilty, Kubina admitted to the following events:
The couple resided between Jan. 1, 2007, and April 2, 2009, in the 7200 block of Polk Avenue in Merrillville and a mobile home in the 5900 block of West 36th Avenue in the Colfax Mobile Home Park in Gary along with Christian, the boy's sister, the couple's biological son, Kubina's daughter and several of Kubina's nieces and nephews.
Kubina, by order of Riley Choate, delegated primary care for Christian to his older sister, who was between 13 and 15 years old at the time.
In March 2007, Kubina and Riley Choate notified Iddings Elementary School in Merrillville that Christian would be home-schooled. This was done because Choate had begun beating Christian regularly, Kubina said, and she was afraid the school would notice the bruises on the boy.
Kubina also was afraid all the children living with the couple would be removed by the state if the beatings were discovered.
Choate first began beating Christian after seeing the boy and another child living in the home not wearing pants, according to Kubina. The couple became aware the other boy had been told in order to be brothers, he had to play the "hump game" with Christian.
Choate is reported to have initially beaten Christian by slapping him with an open hand hard enough to knock the boy to the ground, also grabbing him by the shirt, lifting him and slamming him into the wall. The beatings were so severe Kubina would step in to stop Choate, but she never notified law enforcement nor medical services.
Kubina states Christian was confined from January 2007 to April 2008 to a room in the basement of the Merrillville residence. He initially was allowed to leave the room but gradually was confined there at all times except to eat and use the bathroom. Kubina and Choate became aware the boy was urinating and defecating in the room but continued to confine him.
Between April 2008 and April 2, 2009, the boy was confined first to a bathroom in the Gary mobile home, then to a front bedroom he shared with Choate until he escaped in late 2008. Kubina found the boy in a nearby Walgreens.
Choate beat the boy for escaping and with Kubina's assistance confined the boy in a dog cage in the bedroom he shared with his father until the boy died six to eight months later, she said.
Choate permitted Christian out of the dog cage only to eat, use the bathroom and exercise. When Kubina noticed the boy's feet turning purple, Choate ordered the boy to do daily exercises. When he began defecating and urinating while confined, Kubina made him wear diapers purchased for the youngest child in the house.
Kubina admitted directing Christian's sister to feed the boy one packet of Ramen Noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner, later increasing the packets to two for each meal and adding protein shakes when she noticed the 13-year-old's clothing measuring a size 8.
Kubina states she observed Choate routinely punch, kick and slap the boy about the head, face and torso while living in the mobile home. She ordered Christian's sister to give the boy cold water baths at least weekly to decrease the swelling and bruising.
On April 1, 2009, Kubina returned home to find Christian had "gotten in trouble" and all members of the household were "walking on egg shells" around Choate. The following day, Kubina left to attend a school conference after observing Christian out of his cage and lying on a baby mattress appearing pale, lethargic and glassy-eyed.
Upon returning, Kubina found Christian dead in the back bedroom. Notifying Choate at work, she was instructed to "take care of it" until he got home.
Kubina instructed the boy's sister to wrap him in a blanket and place him in two plastic garbage bags inside a plastic tote and then help Kubina carry the body across the street to a grandmother's mobile home.
While waiting for Choate, Kubina and her sister went to a Menards store, buying two bags of concrete and two bags of lime.
When Choate returned home, Kubina assisted him in burying the boy under a floor of a shed on the property after digging a 2- to 3-foot hole. Choate placed the lime and concrete over the body, and Kubina placed a cross and Bible on the body before Choate covered the body with dirt.