Tkachik takes the stand in case against mom of Jada Justice

2013-06-25T19:30:00Z 2013-06-26T10:20:08Z Tkachik takes the stand in case against mom of Jada JusticeSusan Brown susan.brown@nwi.com, (219) 662-5325 nwitimes.com

CROWN POINT | Timothy Tkachik spent most of Tuesday describing the lifestyle he and his then-girlfriend, Engelica Castillo, were living in 2009 when they killed 2-year-old Jada Justice.

"Getting high and selling drugs," Tkachik said when asked to recount a typical day in the life of Tim Tkachik, then 23.

Ninety to 95 percent of his everyday life was spent in the company of 18-year-old Castillo, who baby-sat for Jada Justice on a regular basis, sometimes along with the child's two siblings, he testified.

The girl's mother, Melissa Swiontek, of Portage, is on trial facing a single charge of neglect of a dependent for handing the child over to the couple.

Under questioning by Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michelle Jatkiewicz during the second day of trial, Tkachik testified Swiontek, then 27, not only knew of his drug use but also of his drug business, by which he made the bulk of his income.

Tkachik told jurors he earned "thousands and thousands of dollars" weekly from selling marijuana, cocaine and prescription pills, along with heroin in the weeks before the couple beat Jada to death.

Tkachik said the children the couple cared for made little difference to him in terms of continuing his drug trade.

"I was continuing with my lifestyle," he said.

Tkachik said he opened the door to Swiontek the morning he and Castillo falsely told police the child had been abducted "because she knows my lifestyle."

He had just flushed some heroin down the toilet expecting police instead, he testified.

He offered Swiontek a bag of pills "to get them out of the house," he told jurors.

On another occasion, Halloween of 2008, Tkachik described a drug deal where he said, "We made the exchange right in front of her."

However, Tkachik also testified Swiontek didn't know "we messed with heroin."

And testimony was unclear how much Swiontek knew about the cocaine involved.

Defense attorney John Vouga attempted to portray Tkachik as a "chronic liar."

Tkachik, who is still awaiting sentencing in a plea deal, admitted he repeatedly lied to authorities.

Vouga also challenged Tkachik's testimony Tuesday that he frequently took Jada along on drug deals.

Vouga said Tkachik never before mentioned taking the child along in countless interviews with authorities.

Vouga questioned if the only time Jada was taken along was on the day she was killed, which Tkachik disputed.

While Tkachik admitted to drug use and drug dealing, he denied abusing the child at any time prior to the day Jada was fatally beaten.

The most he admitted to was slapping the child on the hand.

"She would go crazy," he said.

Asked who killed the girl, he responded, "In my opinion, Engelica. I got involved in it."

However, Tkachik's testimony appeared to place some blame on Swiontek for being aware of his lifestyle.

Castillo, whose sentence has since been reduced to 65 years in prison, is also expected to testify during the weeklong trial, which continues today.

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