CROWN POINT, Ind. (AP) — A Hammond man who had been charged with murder in the death of his 13-year-old son pleaded guilty Friday to multiple counts, including felony neglect of a dependent in the death of the boy whose body was found in a shallow grave last year, two years after authorities say he died.
Riley Choate, 40, showed no emotion as he pleaded guilty in Lake Criminal Court , but Choate's fiancée, Penny Murray, ran out of the courtroom sobbing when the first charge was read, The Times of Munster reported (http://bit.ly/UY6wVY). She later returned.
He also pleaded guilty to neglect of a dependent for depriving his daughter of an education and removal of a body from a death scene or altering a death scene for burying Christian after his death. The boy's severely malnourished body was found in May 2011 buried at a mobile home park in Gary.
In return for the guilty pleas, prosecutors dropped charges of murder, battery, criminal confinement and obstruction of justice.
According to court documents, Choate admitted he started beating and punishing his son after discovering the boy told a sibling they had to play the "hump game" in order to be brothers. Choate also admitted he and his wife at the time, Kimberly Kubina, kept Christian in a dog cage in their bedroom. He said in the plea agreement that he did not seek medical help for his son even when the boy became visibly malnourished.
The beatings Choate gave his son caused bruises, swelling and an altered mental state, court records state.
According to court documents, Christian was fed a packet of Ramen Noodles for breakfast, another for lunch and leftovers from the family dinner. He wore size six clothing as a 13-year-old — a size usually reserved for someone weighing between 42 and 46 pounds — and he wore diapers.
Christian died on April 2, 2009, from a combination of physical trauma, poor health and malnourishment, according to the plea agreement. Kubina placed Christian's body in a plastic tote and stored it in her grandmother's house across the street.
According to court records, Choate and Kubina buried Christian's body under the floor of the grandmother's shed after he returned from work.
Choate faces an agreed term of 80 years in prison when he is sentenced Jan. 11. His ex-wife, Kubina, pleaded guilty to neglect earlier this year. She faces 25 to 35 years in prison, court records state.
Information from: The Times, http://www.thetimesonline.com