A Florida man who threw his 5-year-old daughter off a Tampa Bay area bridge four years ago knew what he was doing was wrong, and he should be found guilty of first-degree murder, a prosecutor told jurors Monday during closing arguments of his trial.
But John Jonchuck’s defense attorney told jurors that while her client dropped his daughter, Phoebe, 62 feet (18 meters) into Tampa Bay, he was insane and didn’t know what he was doing.
“We know he had an overwhelming sense of fear,” said assistant public defender Jessica Manuele. “He felt that somebody was after him and Phoebe.”
Jonchuck faces a life prison sentence if convicted of first-degree murder by jurors who have listened to three weeks of testimony.
Paul Bolan, an assistant state attorney, told jurors Jonchuck was motivated by anger over worries that Phoebe’s mother was going to take the girl away from him and his own mother’s doting attention to her granddaughter when she had been inattentive to him growing up.
Jonchuck’s act was premediated and his fleeing the scene is proof he knew what he was doing was wrong, Bolan said.
“It was rage that drove him to it on top of that bridge,” Bolan said. “Did he know what he was doing and did he know it was wrong? The answer is clearly yes.”
Manuele told jurors Johnchuck loved Phoebe more than anything else in the world and that there’s no evidence he acted out of “unbridled anger.”
Rather, Manuele said his delusions led him to believe Phoebe was possessed, fear that they were being pursued by the archangel, Michael and caused him to pour salt outside her window to keep spirits away.
“At that moment, he thought he was protecting his daughter,” Manuele said. “It will never make sense because it’s insanity.”