Christian Choate, 13
5:20 a.m. PDT, June 29, 2011
GARY, Indiana -- By the time 13-year-old Christian Choate was allegedly beaten to death and buried in a shallow grave in a Gary, Ind., trailer park in 2009, his family had been getting semiregular visits from child welfare authorities for more than 10 years.
The Indiana Department of Child Services' inch-thick case file on the Choate family details more than a dozen investigations of allegations of abuse or neglect dating to 1999. In 2009, Indiana prosecutors say, Christian died after years of abuse, finally succumbing to head injuries caused by blows from his father and older sister.
Christian's father, Riley Choate, and stepmother, Kimberly Kubina, were charged with murder in May after the older sister, now 17, told authorities about the boy's death.
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Reports released by juvenile court officials Friday provide a portrait of the boy's short, terrifying life — and of missed opportunities to stop the alleged abuse.
Less than a year before he died, DCS records state an investigator interviewed the boy, his parents and siblings in response to a neighbor reporting Christian was kept under "house arrest."
Prosecutors allege Christian endured beatings daily and was kept locked in a 3-foot-high dog cage, where he had little to eat and often soiled himself. The DCS report, dated June 2008, says there was no evidence of neglect.
"We followed all state laws all policies and procedures, and we'll continue assessing this fatality," DCS spokeswoman Anne Houseworth said Friday.
The abuse in Christian's case was exceptional, Houseworth said Friday, but DCS staff did follow agency protocols and performed a thorough investigation of the allegations.
"If we don't see evidence of abuse, and no one admits anything is going on, there is nothing for us to do," Houseworth said.
Also included in the reports are medical records that show Christian made numerous visits to a pediatrician from 2007 to 2008. Notes on the report show his weight dropping consistently, and he told his doctor he was "hit with the door in his bedroom" two days before a February 2007 visit.
A month later, handwritten notes from the doctor state Christian complained of being "very angry all the time."
A March 2008 note reads, "He's locked up at night."
The doctor did not report any abuse to authorities, Houseworth said.
School officials lost track of the boy in 2007, after Kubina informed district officials the boy would be home-schooled. DCS investigators reviewed some of Christian's "assignments" from Kubina, and it appears the boy took the opportunity to express his thoughts and feelings at the time.
"Christian's writings detail a very sad, depressed child who often wondered when someone, anyone, was going to come check on him,"
the report states. "(He) wrote of why nobody liked him and how he just wanted to be liked by his family ... how isolated and sad Christian was on a daily basis."