Judge gives man who helped kill Jada Justice 40 years

2013-07-19T12:30:00Z 2013-07-20T23:41:04Z Judge gives man who helped kill Jada Justice 40 yearsBy Lu Ann Franklin and Bill Dolan The Times nwitimes.com
July 19, 2013 12:30 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | Timothy Tkachik appeared stunned Friday when Lake Criminal Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr. sentenced him to 40 years in prison for his role in killing 2-year-old Jada Justice in 2009.

Stefaniak gave Tkachik credit for more than eight years jail time already served, four for each count.

Immediately following the sentencing, the 27-year-old Hobart man told Stefaniak he would appeal the sentence and could not afford an attorney. The judge said he would appoint an appellate public defender to represent Tkachik in that appeal.

As he attempted to talk with distraught family members in the front row of the gallery, Tkachik said, “Now what am I going to do?” to his public defender Herbert Shaps before being led away.

Tkachik pleaded guilty in 2010 to two Class A felony counts of child neglect for joining his then-girlfriend, Engelica Castillo in beating the girl to death and then burning and encasing the body in concrete, before dumping it into a region swamp.

The state dismissed murder, battery and false-informing charges against him in return for his testimony against Castillo, who was convicted of murdering the child, and Jada Justice's mother, Melissa Swiontek, who was charged with child neglect.

The charges against Swiontek were later dismissed.

That reduced Tkachik's potential sentence to a range of between 20 and 50 years. Tkachik said earlier he was hoping for only 20 years.

Castillo is serving a 65-year prison term for killing the girl. The judge cleared Swiontek of all criminal charges last month.

The state proved Castillo and Tkachik fatally beat the 2-year-old girl June 13, 2009, after they became enraged over the child's spilling food while they were babysitting her. They also did not seek medical attention for the girl when she fell unconscious as they drove to Chicago to buy heroin.

Tkachik cried during his statement prior to sentence. Shaps also became emotional when given the defense’s position.

Before the sentencing, Stefaniak went over testimony presented in the Castillo trial and a ruling by the Indiana Supreme Court that reduced Castillo’s sentence from life in prison without parole to 65 years.

Stefaniak said Tkachik appeared to be remorseful for his crime. However, the horrendous details of it outweighed any mitigating factors such as the trauma Tkachik suffered at age 17 when his father killed his mother and then himself, the judge said. He also said he wasn’t using the child’s age as aggravating circumstance.

According to Tkachik’s confession, the couple disposed of Jada’s body in a LaPorte County swamp after first attempting to burn it and finally encasing it in concrete. Then Castillo told police someone abducted Jada from her car while it was parked outside a Glen Park service station in Gary.

Police said Tkachik later solved the crime for them by confessing the truth.

Stefaniak acknowledged that without Tkachik’s confession and cooperation the murder might never have been solved and the child’s body never found.

“I accept the remorse, but I’m not willing to accept that he likely wouldn’t commit another crime,” the judge said.

He also said Tkachik was never convicted of a felony, although he had a number of misdemeanor convictions.

“Prior leniency he was shown didn’t work,” Stefaniak said.

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