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Boy who died after being locked in cage wrote about his desire to die

A woman enters trailer Colfax Mobile Home Park where body Christian Choate was recovered from under shed behind trailer Gary

A woman enters the trailer in the Colfax Mobile Home Park where the body of Christian Choate was recovered from under a shed behind the trailer in Gary, Ind. Thursday May 5, 2011. Acting on a tip, Lake County investigators last week unearthed the body of the 13-year-old boy buried under a concrete slab. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 29, 2011 12:44AM



Confined to a cramped dog cage in his family’s Gary-area mobile home, 13-year-old Christian Choate would ask why he couldn’t go outside with the other kids.

According to documents made public Friday by a Lake County, Ind. judge, his stepmother, Kimberly Kubina instead would give him paper and assign him a topic to write about.

“Christian wrote of why nobody liked him and how he just wanted to be liked by his family. Christian stated that he wanted to die because nobody liked the way he ‘acted,’” according to one of the documents. “Christian’s writings detail a very sad, depressed child who often wondered when someone, anyone, was going to come check on him and give him food or liquid. Christian often stated he was hungry or thirsty.”

Christian’s body was recovered last month from a shallow grave in the Black Oak trailer park where his family once lived. Kubina and Christian’s father, Riley Choate, are charged with killing him.

Christian lived with 11 other siblings and cousins with Kubina and Choate after his mother, Aimee Eriks Estrada, lost custody of her three children in 2004. According to an internal Indiana Department of Child Services report, there were allegations that his sister and his half-sister were molested by their mother’s live-in boyfriend. Aimee Eriks Estrada was cited for neglect and lack of supervision. In February 2005, Christian alleged that his mother may have touched him inappropriately.

The boy, whose body was found May 4 after Lake County police received a tip that he’d been killed two years earlier, wrote of how many times he had to steal food or use the bathroom in his place of confinement. He was “let out” to clean or vacuum but then had to go back to his “place” immediately afterward.

While everyone else was outside playing, he wasn’t. When he asked for something to do, he was given paper.

The guardians of Christian Choate were investigated numerous times by Child Services for physical abuse, educational neglect, and molestation. A caseworker last saw him on June 30, 2008.

But little was ever done after the visits, and somehow no one saw evidence of the boy being chained up and kept in a cage.

Choate, 39, and Kubina, 45, of Hammond, have pleaded not guilty to murder, battery, neglect of a dependent, confinement, obstruction of justice, moving a body from a death scene and failure to notify authorities of a dead body.

Christian died of blunt force trauma, the Lake County coroner’s office said.

Christian’s sister Christina started to reveal the truth in late April to relatives in Kentucky. She told authorities that her father and stepmother often threatened to have the children taken away by DCS. Christina then notified her mother about his death. Eriks Estrada told authorities she hadn’t seen her children for six years and didn’t know until April 30 that Christian was dead.

Meanwhile, documents show the Lake County Department of Child Services’ first involvement with the Choate family came in August 1995, four months before Christian was born, when they were contacted about unsanitary condition of his future stepmother’s home. The allegations were unsubstantiated.

In August 2004, Riley Choate was listed as the perpetrator of physical abuse against Christian, who would have been 8 at the time. The allegations were unsubstantiated. That same month, abuse was substantiated against Riley Choate for inappropriate discipline against Kubina’s nieces, who lived with the couple off and on for years. Medical neglect also was substantiated against Kubina for two children with severe tooth decay.

Riley Choate gained custody of the children after that. Documents indicate that he may have suffered from a learning disability, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. He did not pass either section of the state standardized tests in third grade, but he did pass the math section in fourth grade.

Christian was absent 28 days in the 2006-2007 school year, so his parents decided to withdraw him from Iddings Elementary School in Merrillville in March 2007. He was supposed to be home-schooled, but there’s little evidence that ever occurred.

In April 2008, the family moved to the mobile home park. At that time, Christian was confined in the bathroom except when someone had to use it. Choate and Kubina put a hook-type lock on the door, but Christian managed to flip the lock open with a piece of cardboard and run away. After searching for him and finding him at a nearby drugstore, Choate punched and kicked the boy and then confined him in the couple’s bedroom closet.

In summer 2008, the couple started using a dog cage bought from a neighbor to confine him. One witness told police Christian lived in the cage every day for the last year of his life.



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