Appeals court upholds sentence in death of toddler
BY TERESA AUCH SCHULTZ firstname.lastname@example.org March 3, 2014 5:14PM
Tim Tkachik is serving a 40-year prison term in the death of Jada Justice. His sentence has been upheld by the Indiana Court of Appeals. | Post-Tribune File Photo
Updated: April 5, 2014 6:24AM
The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld a Hobart man’s 40-year prison sentence for his role in the death of 2-year-old Jada Justice in 2009.
Timothy Tkachik, who pleaded guilty in 2010 to two Class A felony counts of neglect of a dependent, had argued in his appeal that Lake County Judge Thomas Stefaniak’s sentence failed to consider several mitigating factor, including his drug use and the fact that he and his girlfriend, Engelica Castillo, did not mean to kill the toddler, who had been staying with them for a few weeks.
Tkachik admitted to police that both he and Castillo had hit, slapped and spanked Jada, Castillo’s cousins’ daughter, throughout the day on June 12, 2009. The two were driving to Chicago to buy heroin when Tkachik noticed that something was wrong with Jada, and they both tried to perform CPR. Instead of calling for medical help, however, they eventually drove back to their house, left her body in the car and took another to buy drugs. They later tried to dispose of her body by burning it and then, when that failed, they hid her body in a swamp in LaPorte County.
Tkachik argued that they weren’t trying to kill Jada when they hit her, but the Court of Appeals noted in its ruling he never argued this during sentencing, which waives his right to appeal on it. The opinion also said that he never explained why his drug addiction should be a mitigating factor.
It also dismissed an argument from him that Castillo was the dominant person in the crime, saying that evidence shows he hit Jada in the head five to seven times and never sought medical help, despite knowing she needed it.
Castillo is serving a 65-year sentence in the case.