Police pull body from shallow grave in Gary mobile home park

2011-05-04T21:30:00Z 2012-12-14T18:26:04Z Police pull body from shallow grave in Gary mobile home parkBy Lindsay Machak, lindsay.machak@nwi.com, (219) 933-3246 nwitimes.com

GARY | A crowd of people stared in disbelief Wednesday evening as police investigators pulled a body from a shallow grave in the city's Black Oak neighborhood.

Lake County investigators found the body of what appears to be an adolescent male, county coroner's spokesman PJ Adams said.

The body had been buried about two years ago, Lake County Sheriff John Buncich said.

An anonymous tipster from out of state called police Sunday, informing them a missing juvenile was buried in a mobile home park near the intersection of 36th Avenue and Colfax Street, Buncich said.

Police began following leads and conducted a search Sunday night, digging through the backyards and wooded area behind the mobile homes, police said. They questioned people at the mobile home park and took one woman in for questioning, neighbors said.

On Wednesday night, police were able to find the body buried 2 feet beneath a storage shed and a layer of concrete.

The body had not been identified as of Wednesday night because it was badly decayed, Buncich said. Adams said the coroner will conduct DNA testing on the body, a process that could take up to six weeks.

Neighbors believe the body is that of Christian Choate, a boy who had been reported as a runaway.

The Indiana Department of Child Services has an open investigation in connection with the Choate family, DCS spokeswoman Ann Houseworth said.

But no further details about the investigation or the whereabouts of any of Christian Choate's siblings were released.

Police confirmed that they have Riley Choate, 39, in custody in connection with the case. After police interrogated him, Choate agreed to help them find where the body was buried, Buncich said.

Choate, a relative of the missing boy, was seen at the crime scene directing investigators. The case is still open, and it is unclear if any other people will be taken into custody in connection with the case.

He wasn't living in the mobile home when officials arrested him. A new tenant had moved into the home and had no idea what was buried in the backyard, Buncich said.

The tenant became a spectator as investigators turned his new home into a crime scene.

Just across the street, the Hamilton brothers shook their heads at the possibility that the body found could be the 12-year-old they once knew to live there.

The brothers were raised in the mobile home park and couldn't fathom their former neighbor could have led police on such a search.

George Hamilton, 35, of Gary, said he used to drink beer with Riley Choate and couldn't imagine him harming any of the children he lived with.

"We never expected anything like that to ever happen," he said.

His brother, Michel Hamilton, 33, said it was a relief that the body was found and said he believed it was the missing child.

"Now let that baby rest in peace," he said. "He was just a kid, and it was something so horrible ... that happened."

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