Deputies: John Jonchuck refused treatment ahead of latest hearing

John Jonchuck is accused of dropping his  5-year-old daughter Phoebe Jonchuck off the Dick Misener bridge on the approach to the Sunshine Skyway bridge in January 2015. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
John Jonchuck is accused of dropping his 5-year-old daughter Phoebe Jonchuck off the Dick Misener bridge on the approach to the Sunshine Skyway bridge in January 2015. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
Published April 25 2016
Updated April 25 2016

CLEARWATER — John Jonchuck, the 26-year-old man accused of dropping his daughter off the Dick Misener bridge, will have a competency hearing Tuesday to determine if he is fit to stand trial.

Jonchuck's hearing had been scheduled for April 18, but his new public defender, Jane McNeill, said that he had not been taking all of his medications in the Pinellas County Jail, so the judge postponed the hearing until Tuesday.

At past hearings, doctors ruled that Jonchuck was not psychologically competent to be tried for first-degree murder for killing his 5-year-old daughter, Phoebe in January 2015.

SPECIAL REPORT: It was a tragedy so many people could have stopped — but no one did. Read 'The Long Fall of Phoebe Jonchuck,' by Times staff writer Lane DeGregory

But last month, after re-examining him, doctors issued a new psychological report, which has been sealed.

A form in Jonchuck's court file shows that state doctors prescribed six medications for him -- including Clonazepam, Seroquel and Haldol. A note says, "It is strongly emphasized that maintenance of this patient's psychiatric stability and competence is dependent on his remaining compliant with the current medication regimen."

Jonchuck had been in a state mental hospital for more than a year. Since being brought back to Pinellas County Jail last month, deputies' logs show he has refused a visit from a psychiatrist, refused to take all his medications, turned down meals, clean clothes and time in the day room and tried to grab a guard.

If he is still deemed unfit today, he likely will be sent back to the mental hospital. If the judge determines that he's competent, a trial date will be set.

Jonchuck had lived with his daughter, Phoebe, most of her life and had been her primary caregiver for her last couple of years. Friends and family said he had a history of mental illness and drug abuse, though he was not tested for drugs after being charged with murder.

Just after midnight on Jan. 8, 2015, an off-duty St. Petersburg police officer saw Jonchuck's white PT Cruiser speeding to the top of the approach to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. As the officer watched, Jonchuck got out of his car, lifted Phoebe from the backseat, and dropped her over the railing. She fell six stories into the dark water of Tampa Bay.

Contact Lane DeGregory at ldegregory@tampabay.com or call her at (727) 893‑8825. Follow @lanedegregory on Twitter.

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