1112-E3   2015--01--25  Tampa Bay, FL - passing under Sunshine Bridge at sunset --  copyrighted by Stan Paregien

I hate reading stories like this. It’s so painful to know this child would be alive if this operator had been properly trained and knew how to do her job:

Just 12 hours before police say a man threw his five-year-old daughter to her death off a Tampa Bay bridge last month, his own attorney called Florida’s child abuse hotline, warning that his client was suffering from mental delusions. But the hotline operator didn’t refer the call to investigators because she didn’t think the child was in danger, according to documents released by Florida child welfare officials Monday.

One week earlier, another worried caller told the Department of Children and Families that John Jonchuck’s daughter Phoebe had been physically abused in the past. But that call also failed to get to DCF investigators because the operator hung up before she got Jonchuck’s address. Instead of calling back, she simply closed the case, according to the state’s investigation.

The lapses have cast the already troubled DCF in a harsh spotlight, prompting the agency’s new secretary Mike Carroll to change hotline protocol. Going forward, if a caregiver seems to be experiencing a psychotic episode, a child protective investigator will be required to visit within four hours.

Police say Phoebe Jonchuck was likely alive when her father sped past a police officer on 8 January, stopped on the Sunshine Skyway bridge, pulled the girl from the back seat and dropped her to her death. He was arrested and accused of first-degree murder, but hasn’t formally been charged as he is undergoing mental health evaluations.

Jonchuck’s own divorce lawyer had warned authorities of his mental state on 7 January, telling the hotline operator that Jonchuck had driven to three different churches in his pajamas with Phoebe in tow and asked his attorney to translate a Bible in Swedish. Jonchuck was also expressing paranoid fears that Phoebe was not his biological daughter, his lawyer said.