Uncle questions placement of Choate sibling

2012-12-22T21:00:00Z 2012-12-23T23:38:05Z Uncle questions placement of Choate siblingSusan Brown susan.brown@nwi.com, (219) 662-5325 nwitimes.com
December 22, 2012 9:00 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | The brother of Kimberly Kubina, a convicted felon for her role in the death of stepson Christian Choate, is questioning the state's placement of the slain teen's half-brother.

Robert Hamby, 36, a longtime resident of Kentucky, is seeking custody of the boy, who is his nephew and the biological son of Kubina and Riley Choate.

Kubina and Riley Choate each pleaded guilty this year to felony neglect of a dependent in the death of Choate's son, Christian.

The body of 13-year-old Christian was found buried in a shallow grave in a mobile home park in Gary's Black Oak section in May 2011, two years after the boy died from beatings and severe malnutrition.

In pleading guilty Dec. 14, Riley Choate admitted to beating and punishing Christian for allegedly telling his son by Kubina that the boys had to play the "hump game" to be brothers.

Hamby said he held temporary custody of Christian's older sister, Christina, after Kubina abandoned the girl in Kentucky to follow Choate to Indiana.

Hamby described sister Kimberly Kubina's relationship with Choate, 40, as off and on for many years, with Choate being "very abusive."

Hamby said he first met Christina in 2009 when he traveled to Indiana for a family funeral.

Like other relatives, Hamby said he had been told his sister's stepson had run away to be with his mother.

"When Christina told me what happened to her brother, I didn't believe it," Hamby said.

Hamby said he waited a day to question the girl again.

"Her story never changed," he said.

Hamby said his reaction was beyond shock.

"My sister was always there for me," he said. "I was close to Kim and on good terms until I found out what happened to Christian."

Hamby says he believes for every action, there's a reaction.

"Whatever they get, they deserve every bit of it," Hamby said of sentencing hearings for Kubina and Riley Choate.

Kimberly Kubina faces between 25 and 35 years in prison for her role in her stepson's death. Riley Choate agreed to a sentence of 80 years in his plea agreement with prosecutors.

Hamby said he only surrendered Christina to Indiana authorities when the courts determined Indiana to be the girl's home state.

"I had no choice but to surrender her," he said.

Hamby said in Christina's case, it all turned out for the best and he has no quarrel with either state in her case. Neither Christina nor Christian were related to his family by blood, he said.

However, Hamby said he has since learned through mutual friends that the Indiana Department of Child Services has given custody of his nephew to Richard Kubina, his sister's ex-husband.

"My thing about that is, he refuses to let us see (my nephew)," Hamby said. "He has taken (the boy) out of our lives completely."

When reached Friday, Richard Kubina declined to comment.

"Kim and Rich were high school sweethearts at Calumet High School," said Hamby, who was born in East Chicago and reared in Gary before moving to Kentucky more than 20 years ago.

The couple married, had a daughter and divorced before Kimberly married Choate, he said.

Hamby said Kimberly and Richard Kubina maintained a relationship over the years, but his sister does not want her ex-husband to adopt her son by Choate.

Hamby said his nephew lived and was schooled in Hopkinsville, Ky., for about two years.

He questions why Indiana is permitting his nephew to live with a nonrelative, in this case, Richard Kubina.

Hamby admits to a stint in prison at 18 when he was "young and stupid," he said.

However, Hamby said he now is the father of three, lives a stable life and has held the same job for 13 years.

Without the means to hire an attorney, Hamby said he has sought information on his nephew's status from authorities but has been turned away.

Lake County Juvenile Court Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura said to her knowledge Hamby has not attended court hearings on the matter.

"The court has never denied him any access," she said Friday.

DCS spokewoman Stephanie McFarland declined to comment on the case, saying federal and state laws prohibit child abuse/neglect records from being public record except in the case of a fatality.

As far as the general process regarding placement with a relative, McFarland said the child's safety and well-being is the first and paramount factor that must be considered.

In addition, McFarland said the caregiver would need to live in Indiana, taking into account the trauma children experience when they are removed from a school and community.

McFarland said DCS also conducts background checks and home inspections for safety and appropriate living conditions.

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