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Florida girl was alive before father threw her from bridge, police say

Florida girl was alive before father threw her from bridge, police say

A 5-year-old girl who was thrown from a Florida bridge on Thursday was alive before her father allegedly dropped her into the Tampa Bay, police said Friday.

While they offered no additional details, St. Petersburg, Fla., police released a statement on Friday saying "preliminary evidence" had confirmed that Phoebe Jonchuck was still alive when her father, John Jonchuck, dropped her from the Dick Misener Bridge during a confrontation with a police officer on Thursday morning.

Jonchuck, 25, has been charged with first-degree murder and several other offenses. He has refused an attorney and has not spoken to police.

“I want to leave it in the hands of God,” he told a judge on Thursday.

Jonchuck was driving his Chrysler PT Cruiser at speeds of up to 100 mph when he approached the Skyway Bridge shortly after midnight on Thursday, police said. An off-duty St. Petersburg police officer turned to follow him, and Jonchuck stopped along the span of the Skyway.

Jonchuck started approaching the officer, who drew his gun, according to police. But Jonchuck then removed Phoebe from the passenger seat of the vehicle. He dropped her from the bridge and sped off seconds later, police said.

Police said they used a spike strip to stop him after he began racing the wrong way down a highway.

Jonchuck and the victim's mother, Michelle Kerr, had been together for nearly six years and police had responded to multiple domestic violence calls at their home, police said.

Genevieve Torres, who was previously Jonchuck's lawyer, told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday that she had called police and child services to warn them that her client was delusional and might be alone with his daughter.

Torres called 911 after Jonchuck referred to her as God and asked her to translate the Bible in Swedish.

“I was concerned for the child,” Torres said, “and was hoping that someone would go out to him.”

Jonchuck may have also asked a Tampa priest to baptize his daughter shortly before the deadly confrontation, according to a report in USA Today.

Father Bill Swengros of St. Paul's Catholic Church told the newspaper that Jonchuck and his daughter approached him Wednesday night. 

"He was anxious, agitated, but not threatening," Swengros told USA Today.

Swengros declined to speak with The Times.

Times staff writer Brittny Mejia contributed to this report.

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