Trial date scheduled for John Jonchuck, charged with throwing daughter off Dick Misener bridge

John Jonchuck is accused of throwing his daughter off the Dick Misener Bridge.
John Jonchuck is accused of throwing his daughter off the Dick Misener Bridge.
Published Mar. 28, 2017

John Jonchuck is scheduled to stand trial next February, three years after he was arrested on charges of throwing his 5-year-old daughter off the Dick Misener bridge.

After a Monday afternoon hearing with prosecutors and Jonchuck's three defense attorneys from the Public Defender's Office, Pinellas Circuit judge Chris Helinger set the trial date for Feb. 5, 2018.

The date was chosen taking into consideration Jonchuck's treatment schedule at the state hospital in Gainesville. His doctors inject him with medicine every 28 days, said Assistant Public Defender Jessica Manuele.

During the hearing, prosecutors requested a trial date sometime in the fall, noting that the case is already two years old.

But Manuele said her team needed more time to wrap up depositions. Next month, they are set to depose law enforcement officers from Hillsborough and Manatee counties.

Jonchuck's counsel also needs to spend more time with him, Manuele said. They plan to visit him at least once a day every month through December.

"We have not had two years of contact with our client," she said.

In the end, Helinger chose a compromise date in February.

Jonchuck was not present at Monday's hearing. He will remain at the state hospital until the case is closer to trial. Earlier this month, Jonchuck was found competent, which means he can understand the charges against him.

On Jan. 8, 2015, an off-duty St. Petersburg police officer saw a white PT Cruiser speeding south toward the Misener bridge just after midnight. The car pulled over and Jonchuck reached into the back seat for his 5-year-old daughter, Phoebe.

He carried her to the edge of the bridge, police said, and dropped her into the water.

Jonchuck is charged with first-degree murder. He faces the death penalty, but prosecutors have said they may revisit that decision given his mental health history.

The next hearing in the case is set for May 1.

Contact Laura C. Morel at Follow @lauracmorel.