FILED IN: Child Abuse

Child welfare 'failed' caged Indiana boy

From left: Riley Choate, Christian Choate, Kimberly Kubina

A former official at Indiana Child Protective Services is admitting some culpability in the death of a 13 year old boy that was allegedly kept in a dog cage and beaten to death.

The body of Christian Choate was found earlier in May in a shallow grave beneath a concrete slab near his former home in Gary, Indiana. Police believe Christian died in April, 2009.

Christian’s father, Riley Lowell Choate, 39, and his stepmother, Kimberly Leona Kubina, 45, have been charged with murder, battery, neglect of a dependent and criminal confinement. Neighbors reportedly told police that they witnessed Choate slap Christian, and the boy’s beatings grew in severity as Choate and Kubina increasingly had problems in their marriage and Choate would take it out on Christian, according to court records.

Police allege that the last few years of Christian’s life were spent mostly locked up either in a room in the basement or in a dog cage that Choate had purchased from a neighbor. When not in the cage, the couple forced Christian’s 17-year-old sister to chain him up and be responsible for his care, and she told police that if she didn’t do as she was told Choate would abuse her as well.

Now, after an investigation by the Chicago Tribune, it appears there were chances for Christian to be rescued, but no actions were taken. One neighbor reportedly called authorities twice over suspicions of what was happening in the Choate home, especially after her husband had witnessed Christian cowering in a corner while Choate screamed at him. The neighbor says she witnessed somebody who she assumed to be a state social worker visit the home after each of her calls.

The Tribune found that child welfare services had been in contact with Choate and Kubina on a number of different occasions, even placing some of their children in foster care, but Christian’s plight was overlooked.

Lavetta Sparks-Wade, who was head of Child Protective Services investigators in Lake County until her retirement in 2009, said, “We failed [Christian]. We failed him.”

Sparks-Wade continued, “I can tell you if someone told me there was a boy in a cage, we would have removed that child from the home immediately. No one [at the Department of Child Services] must have talked to this child, or the other children in the house. An experienced caseworker would have known something was wrong if that level of abuse was going on in that household.”

A DCS spokesperson said they are investigating the incident, and that there were no open cases involving Choate and Kubina around the time of Christian’s death.