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New evaluation ordered for father accused of throwing daughter, 5, off bridge

John Jonchuck threw his 5-year-old daughter off a bridge, authorities say.
John Jonchuck threw his 5-year-old daughter off a bridge, authorities say.
Published Jan. 30, 2015

LARGO — A judge on Thursday authorized an additional mental health evaluation for John Jonchuck, the man accused of killing his 5-year-old daughter by throwing her off a bridge this month near the Sunshine Skyway.

Jonchuck's mental state will likely be a key feature of the legal proceedings against him, following a horrifying crime that attracted media attention around the country. The new evaluation is one more step in that process.

Senior Assistant Public Defender Kandice Friesen asked for the additional evaluation by a court-appointed mental health professional, and Pinellas-Pasco Chief Circuit Judge Thomas McGrady authorized it. Assistant State Attorney Doug Ellis did not object.

Court psychologist Jill Poorman also has been evaluating Jonchuck, but has not yet made an official report on his mental state. An additional hearing has been set for Feb. 10.

Thursday's development means a judge will have at least two evaluations in hand before deciding whether Jonchuck is legally competent and can understand the case against him. If he is determined to be mentally competent, lawyers can work toward putting him on trial. If he is not, Jonchuck would be given mental treatment in hopes that he could later be found to be mentally capable.

A separate question likely to be addressed later is whether Jonchuck was sane at the time of the murder, and legally responsible for it. Although he was arrested and accused of first-degree murder, he has not yet been formally charged.