A 5-year-old Florida girl was pronounced dead early on Thursday after her father threw her over the side of a bridge, a 62-foot drop into frigid waters, police in St. Petersburg said.
The father, John Jonchuck Jr., 25, was driving about 100 miles per hour when he sped past an officer just after midnight heading toward the Sunshine Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay, police said in a statement.
The officer followed the driver and soon found Jonchuck waiting near the top of an approach to the bridge, said St. Petersburg police Chief Anthony Holloway.
The father opened a passenger door and removed his daughter, placing her face toward him. He then threw her over the bridge railing, Holloway said.
He drove off at a normal speed as the officer began searching for the child.
“You just throw this baby away like it’s nothing,” the chief said at a news conference.
Phoebe Jonchuck’s body was found in the water about an hour and a half later and roughly a half-mile from the bridge, police said, noting it was a windy night with fast-moving currents.
John Jonchuck was stopped by authorities in nearby Manatee County and taken in custody. An empty pink carseat was sitting in the back of his vehicle.
He was arrested on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated fleeing and eluding and aggravated assault with a motor vehicle on a law enforcement officer.
Holloway said Jonchuck lived with his parents in Tampa and had custody of the child.
Jonchuck may have mental issues, the chief said, and officers were investigating whether drugs or alcohol were involved.
A court appearance for Jonchuck was scheduled for Thursday afternoon.
(Reporting by Letitia Stein; Writing and additional reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Bill Trott)