Appeals court affirms 40-year sentence for partner in Jada Justice murder

2014-03-03T12:30:00Z 2014-03-04T12:01:08Z Appeals court affirms 40-year sentence for partner in Jada Justice murderBy Dan Carden, (317) 637-9078
March 03, 2014 12:30 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the 40-year prison term issued to Timothy Tkachik, the Hobart man who admitted assisting in the brutal 2009 murder of 2-year-old Jada Justice.

Tkachik, 28, pleaded guilty in 2010 to two Class A felony counts of child neglect resulting in death for joining his then-girlfriend, Engelica Castillo, in beating the toddler to death and then burning and encasing her body in concrete, before dumping it in a swamp near Otis in LaPorte County.

Castillo, 23, is serving a 65-year prison term for murder. Prosecutors dropped a murder charge against Tkachik after he agreed to testify against Castillo.

In his appeal, Tkachik argued Lake Superior Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr. should have given him a shorter prison sentence.

He claimed the judge failed to consider as mitigating factors the accidental nature of Justice's death, Castillo's dominant role in the relationship and Tkachik's heroin use.

The appeals court, in a 3-0 decision, determined Monday that Stefaniak properly weighed the aggravating and mitigating factors affecting Tkachik's actions.

"We conclude that the valid aggravating factors found by the trial court warranted an enhanced sentence and, accordingly, that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing Tkachik," Appeals Judge Cale Bradford wrote.

On June 13, 2009, Castillo and Tkachik were babysitting when they fatally beat Justice, the daughter of Castillo's cousin, after they became enraged by the child spilling food, according to court records.

They did not seek medical attention for the girl after she fell unconscious while they drove to Chicago to buy heroin. Justice died a short time later.

The next day, Tkachik and Castillo attempted to dispose of Justice's body by burning it in a wooded area. They were unsuccessful, but Tkachik was severely burned in the process. They later put Justice's body in a container, poured concrete around it and dumped it in a swamp.

Tkachik and Castillo initially told police Justice had been kidnapped after Castillo left the girl in a car while buying items at a Gary gas station.

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