Eleven region children lost their lives to violence or neglect between July 1, 2008, and June 30, 2009, a state report released Monday shows.
The Indiana Department of Child Services' annual child fatality report analyzed the abuse- or neglect-related deaths of 38 Indiana children during that time period. Of the 38 cases, nine deaths occurred in families that had prior contact with Child Protective Services.
In the time period of the most recent report, seven Lake County children were fatal victims of abuse, and one fell victim to neglect. In Porter County, two children died of abuse-related injuries, and one died of neglect.
Seven Lake County children died of abuse-related injuries during the previous year, and none died of neglect. There were no Porter County children mentioned in the previous year's report.
Among the local victims listed in the most recent report are:
• Jada Justice, 2, who died in June 2009 while under the care of her cousin Engelica Castillo and Castillo's boyfriend, Timothy Tkachik. Castillo initially told authorities Jada had been abducted from a Gary gas station, igniting a regionwide search. An investigation later revealed Castillo and Tkachik had battered the Portage toddler, burned her body, encased it in concrete and dumped it in a LaPorte County swamp. Castillo was convicted of murder and sentenced to life without parole. Tkachik pleaded guilty to two counts of felony neglect of a dependent in exchange for his cooperation with authorities. He awaits sentencing.
• Austin Seese, 3, of Gary, died Jan. 31, 2009, of cerebral injuries, his body marked with gang signs in pen. Kevin McKaskle, the boyfriend of Austin's mother, told paramedics Austin had fallen down the basement stairs. Officials said Austin's injuries were consistent with physical abuse, and there was a significant delay between the time the boy was injured and the call for medical help. McKaskle pleaded guilty to felony neglect of a dependent for Austin's death and was sentenced to 28 months in prison.
• Three-month-old Nathan Wisniewski died Nov. 13, 2008, of intentional suffocation. His mother, Kimberly Ann Kelley, was charged with causing her son's death and later was sentenced to 37.5 years in prison. The words "my mommy loves me" could be seen imprinted on Nathan's chest after he died.