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John Jonchuck competency hearing pushed back

Published Apr. 25, 2016

CLEARWATER — The competency hearing for John Jonchuck, 26, that was scheduled for this morning has been delayed until April 26. Jonchuck, who had not been back to court in more than a year, was to appear this morning to determine whether he is competent to stand trial. But his new public defender, Jane McNeill, said that he had not been taking all of his medications.

Jonchuck will be reevaluated by a psychologist.

Jonchuck, who is accused of dropping his 5-year-old daughter, Phoebe, off the Dick Misener bridge, has been in a state mental hospital since early 2015.

At past hearings, including the most recent one in February, doctors ruled that he is not competent to be tried for first-degree murder.

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 on March 22, after re-examining him, doctors issued a new psychological report, which has been sealed. He was brought back to the Pinellas County jail the following week, and his hearing was moved up two months to today.

Jonchuck had lived with his daughter 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 never 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 edge of the bridge, 60 feet into the waves of Tampa Bay.

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