Choate admits role in son’s death, gets 80-year sentence
By Ruth Ann Krause Post-Tribune correspondent January 11, 2013 1:07PM
Riley Choate with attorney Lemuel Stigler speaks to the court during his sentencing Friday in Crown Point. Choate was sentenced to 80 years in the death of his son. L.D. Chukman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 13, 2013 6:08AM
Lake Superior Court Judge Diane Ross Boswell sentenced a Hammond man to 80 years in prison Friday for neglect of a dependent in the death of his 13-year-old son, who was made to live in a dog cage, and for being a habitual offender.
Riley Lowell Choate, 40, apologized for his conduct and said he was making poor decisions and not thinking when the crimes occurred.
“I am deeply sorry. I have regret and all my actions will haunt me forever. I loved my son,” Choate said.
Choate admitted he began forcefully physically disciplining Christian Choate after he caught him and another boy in a room together not wearing pants and playing the “hump game.” The abuse grew more severe, and Choate and his former wife, Kimberly Leona Kubina, confined the boy to his room for increasing lengths of time and began cutting back on his food intake.
Christian was locked in a bathroom, then in Choate’s bedroom in the Colfax Mobile Home Park in Gary, where the family moved from in mid-2008. When Christian escaped and ran away, he was locked in a dog cage, from which he was released only to eat and use the bathroom. Eventually, Christian wore diapers that were purchased for a 3-year-old living in the house. He weighed 58 pounds when he died on April 2, 2009. He lived in the dog cage for more than one year before his death.
Deputy prosecutor Michael Woods said the full extent of Christian’s suffering and loneliness is hard to fathom. Woods said Choate turned on his own son “not just in a moment of anger, but in a lengthy, perpetual, cruel and depraved fashion.” Several other children living in the trailer home saw the daily abuse of Christian, who wore size six clothing. Those children, who would have been called to testify at Choate’s trial, are still haunted by what they witnessed, Woods said.
Defense attorney Lemuel Stigler said he felt the plea agreement was in his client’s best interest in light of the possibility Choate would receive an aggravated sentence if convicted of the charges. Choate faced 45 to 65 years on a murder charge, which was dismissed along with numerous over felony counts in favor of the plea agreement.
Stigler said many others could have been prosecuted for their participation in the case.
Choate was sentenced to three years for neglect for depriving Christian’s oldest sister, Christina, of an education for failing to enroll her in school when they moved to Gary. He also was sentenced to three years for removal of a body from a death scene. Those counts will be served concurrently to the neglect of a dependent resulting in death charge. The habitual offender enhancement added 30 years to his sentence. Choate also has a warrant for sodomy in the first degree issued by Christian County, Ky., authorities.
Kubina. 47. pleaded guilty to neglect and faces 25 to 35 years at her Feb. 19 sentencing hearing.