CLEARWATER, Fla. (FOX 13) - Investigators said John Jonchuck was the last face his daughter ever saw before she was thrown more than 60 feet off a Pinellas County bridge, and jury selection for his trial began Monday.
Four years ago, in January 2015, a St. Petersburg police officer said he witnessed Jonchuck throw his five-year-old daughter, Phoebe Jonchuck, off the Dick Misener Bridge, located near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. She drowned after the 60-foot plunge into Tampa Bay.
From the start of Monday morning, jurors were asked a variety of questions, including whether they can commit to a month-long trial and how much they've been exposed to the high-profile case in the media. Some were dismissed.
The goal is to get at least 70 potential jurors out of a pool of 1,200 individuals who were summoned. Then, those individuals will have another round of individual sessions with attorneys asking questions. They'll eventually be narrowed down from there.
Jury selection could take at least a week. The jury will have to decide whether Jonchuck is guilty of the murder with mental clarity or whether he is not guilty by reason of insanity. His defense team is expected to ultimately argue the latter.
For a couple of years, 29-year-old Jonchuck has been found incompetent to stand trial and was receiving treatment from a state mental hospital. In 2017, doctors said he was ready to face the law. The decision for jurors is likely whether he will spend the rest of his life in prison or a state hospital. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty.
During a pre-trial hearing on Thursday, it was the first time in a while where Jonchuck appeared in public, and shocked many with his much skinnier appearance. Sources told FOX 13 he lost nearly 100 pounds while in custody.
Jonchuck’s defense team did not want the word “psychopath” to be used during the trial and his legal team did not want the jury to hear that hypothermia was a contributing cause of Phoebe’s death. However, Pinellas-Pasco County Judge Chris Helinger denied both of the defense's motions.
Jonchuck faces a first-degree murder charge.