CROWN POINT | Riley Choate showed no emotion Friday as he pleaded guilty to multiple charges relating to the neglect and death of his 13-year-old son.
Authorities unearthed Christian Choate's severely malnourished body in May 2011 from a shallow grave in a Gary mobile home park.
On Friday, Riley Choate, 40, pleaded guilty in Lake Criminal Court to felony neglect of a dependent relating to his treatment of Christian, neglect of a dependent for depriving his daughter of an education and removal of a body from a death scene or altering a death scene for burying Christian after his death. Riley Choate also admitted being a habitual offender because of two previous felony auto theft convictions.
"Guilty," he said in a calm voice when Lake Criminal Court Judge Diane Boswell asked him how he pleaded.
Riley Choate's fiancee, Penny Murray, was not so calm. She ran out of the courtroom sobbing when the first charge was read out loud but later returned for the rest of the proceedings.
"I'm proud of him," she said softly after the hearing. "I'm very proud of him."
Riley Choate faces an agreed term of 80 years in prison when he is sentenced Jan. 11.
Riley Choate admitted in court documents he started beating and punishing Christian after discovering the boy told a sibling they had to play the "hump game" in order to be brothers, court records state.
Riley Choate also admitted he and then-wife Kimberly Kubina kept Christian in a dog cage in their bedroom. And he admitted to watching his son become visibly malnourished but doing nothing to seek medical attention, according to the plea agreement.
Christian was fed one packet of Ramen Noodles for breakfast, one packet for lunch and leftovers from the family dinner, court records state. He wore size 6 clothing as a 13-year-old — a size usually reserved for someone weighing between 42 and 46 pounds.
Christian also wore diapers that originally had been purchased for the youngest child in the home. Riley Choate beat Christian — causing bruises, swelling and an altered mental state, court records state.
On April 2, 2009, Christian died from a combination of physical trauma, poor health and malnourishment by Riley Choate and Kubina, according to the plea agreement. Kubina placed Christian's body in a plastic tote and stored it in her grandmother's house across the street.
When Riley Choate got home from work, he and Kubina buried Christian's body under the floor of the grandmother's shed, court records state.
In return for Riley Choate's guilty plea, Lake County prosecutors agreed to dismiss the other criminal charges pending against him — including murder, battery, criminal confinement and obstruction of justice.
Kubina pleaded guilty to neglect earlier this year. She faces 25 to 35 years in prison, court records state.