Riley Choate pleads guilty to neglect in son’s death in exchange for 80-year sentence
By Ruth Ann Krause Post-Tribune correspondent December 14, 2012 12:17PM
Christian Choate timeline
2005: Aimee Estrada, mother of Christian Choate, relinquishes custody of her son
April 1-8, 2009: Christian Choate, 13, dies from blunt force trauma, is buried at Colfax Mobile Home Park
Mid-April 2011: Gary police receive vague tip on whereabouts of missing boy
April 30, 2011: Christian’s sister tells their mother about her brother’s death
May 1, 2011: Lake County police begin investigation, search unsuccessfully for body
May 2, 2001: Riley Choate, Christian’s father, arrested
May 3, 2011: Riley Choate shows police where he buried his son next to his mobile home, covered site with lime and concrete
May 10, 2011: Riley Choate and his ex-wife, Kimberly Kubina, charged with murder, neglect of a dependent and confinement
May 2, 2012: Kubina pleads guilty to neglect charge and agrees to testify against her ex-husband
Sept. 9, 2012: Judge releases Christian’s body to his mother
Dec. 14, 2012: Riley Choate enters guilty plea
Updated: January 16, 2013 6:07AM
A former Gary man charged with murder in the beating death of his son has pleaded guilty to neglect of a dependent and other charges in exchange for an 80-year prison sentence.
Riley Lowell Choate, 40, of Hammond, pleaded guilty in the death of 13-year-old Christian Choate, who was beaten, fed minimal amounts of food and kept in a dog cage for the last year of his life. Choate admitted he put Christian in a situation that endangered his life or health and resulted in his death.
Lake Superior Court Judge Diane Ross Boswell scheduled a Jan. 11 sentencing hearing.
In March 2007, Choate and his ex-wife, Kimberly Kubina, withdrew Christian Choate from Iddings Elementary School in Merrillville under the guise that they would home-school him, but the child did not receive any meaningful education at home.
After Choate saw his son and another boy in a room together not wearing pants and learning that Christian had told the boy they had to play the “hump game” to be brothers, Choate began “forcefully physically disciplining” Christian Choate. Initially Choate would slap Christian, but the abuse progressed to lifting the boy and throwing him onto a couch. Around the same time, Choate and Kubina began confining Christian to his room for increasing periods of time and cutting back his food intake.
In mid-2008, the family moved to the Colfax Mobile Home Park in Gary, where they failed to enroll Christina Choate, Christian’s older sister, in school. Choate pleaded guilty to neglect for depriving Christina Choate of an education.
Christian was locked in a bathroom, then in Choate’s bedroom until late 2008 when Christian escaped and ran away to a nearby Walgreens. After he was found, the child was locked in a dog cage, from which he was released only to eat and use the bathroom. Christina Choate was directed to remove her brother from the cage for short periods of time to do limited exercises after Kubina observed Christian to have developed circulatory problems from the confinement. When the boy began urinating and defecating in the cage, Kubina required him to wear diapers originally purchased for the youngest child in the house.
The boy was fed Ramen noodles for breakfast and lunch, and leftovers from the family dinner. At the time of his death, Christian Choate wore size 6 clothes.
Kubina tried to address the swelling and bruising on Christian Choate’s body by instructing Christina Choate to give him ice cold water baths.
For at least two weeks before Christian Choate’s death, his father physically disciplined him to the point where he showed signs of lethargy, confusion and an altered mental state, but neither Choate nor Kubina obtained medical care for the boy, who died on April 2, 2009.
Kubina put the boy’s body inside a plastic tote and stored it in Kubina’s grandmother’s mobile home across the street. Later, Choate and Kubina dug a 2- to 3-foot deep hole under the grandmother’s shed. Kubina put a Bible and a cross on Christian’s body, and Choate covered the body with lime, concrete and dirt before replacing the floor of the shed. Christian’s body was unearthed May 4, 2011.
Choate admitted his status as an habitual offender with two prior unrelated auto theft convictions in Lake County. That habitual offender sentencing enhancement adds 30 years to the 50-year sentence on the neglect charge. Choate had faced roughly 120 years in prison if convicted of all charges and sentenced consecutively.
Kubina, 46, pleaded guilty to neglect of a dependent and faces 25 to 35 years in prison. She had agreed to cooperate in the prosecution of Choate.