Cops: Dad Threw Girl, 5, Off Tampa Bay Bridge
John Jonchuck charged with first-degree murder
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 8, 2015 9:02 AM CST
This image provided by the Pinellas County Jail shows a booking photo of John Nicholas Jonchuck Jr.   (AP Photo/Pinellas County Jail)

(Newser) – A frantic search in the waters of Florida's Tampa Bay by a local fire department, college dive team, and the US Coast Guard ended sadly this morning after the body of a 5-year-old girl was recovered. Making the story even more tragic is that little Phoebe Jonchuck (also spelled Jonchuk in various media outlets) was said to have been killed by her own father, 25-year-old John Jonchuck, after he allegedly threw her off a Tampa bridge, the AP reports. A police officer who was driving home just after midnight said he tried to stop a PT Cruiser that zipped by him at around 100mph, but as they approached the Skyway Bridge, the Cruiser pulled over and the officer says Jonchuck got out, tossed his daughter over the side of the bridge, and drove south. Jonchuck was picked up by Manatee County police about 30 minutes later, according to WFTS.

Rescue personnel that included the Coast Guard and St. Petersburg Fire Rescue searched for Phoebe, who had plunged 62 feet and fallen into the water, but it was Eckerd College divers who finally found her; revival attempts were unsuccessful, and she was pronounced dead at 2:44am at a local hospital, the AP notes. Jonchuck has been charged with first-degree murder, aggravated fleeing and eluding, and aggravated assault with a motor vehicle on a police officer, WFTV reports. The station also says Jonchuck has a "long criminal history," including DUI and non-domestic battery. Still, "We have no idea why anybody would do something like this," a St. Petersburg Police Department spokeswoman tells WFTV. (An Oregon mom accused of throwing her son off a bridge blamed autism.)