A judge today ruled John Jonchuck is mentally competent to face charges in the death of his 5-year-old daughter.
Since Phoebe Jonchuck died, Florida Department of Children and Families investigators have made changes that hope will better protect children.
More than two years ago, Tampa family law attorney Genevieve Torres called the DCF Child Abuse Hotline to report her client John Jonchuck was having a psychotic episode when he left her office with his five year old daughter Phoebe. But DCF decided not to intervene.
Nine hours later, Jonchuck threw Phoebe off a bridge, killing her.
“It's not something you get over. It's just something that you learn to live with,” Torres said Friday.
After Phoebe's death, DCF admitted they made mistakes and changed policies,requiring investigators to follow up within four hours of an allegation that a parent or caregiver is having a psychotic episode.
The department also hired 270 more child protective investigators.
“I think it's good that DCF recognized that changes needed to be made, and I'm glad that they did some,” Torres said. “Do I think there's still room for improvement? Absolutely!”
In the first year after Phoebe's death, DCF investigators responded to more than 900 calls alleging psychotic caregivers.
That would be nine hundred and something calls that could have fallen through the cracks. We don't know if they saved a life, but they probably did, because we don't know if they didn't go out if something would have happened,” Torres said.
After half-a-dozen hearings, a judge ruled Friday John Jonchuck is competent to stand trial.
Torres is expected to be called as a witness.
“I'm glad that it's finally moving forward. I wish he would have been found competent a while ago and it will be interesting to see if he stays competent,” she said.
Torres believes that however his trial turns out, Phoebe's death will not have been in vain.
“It made an impact on other children's lives and hopefully it will continue to save some lives,” Torres said.
A pre-trial hearing in Jonchuck’s murder trial is scheduled to be held March 27th.
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