CHICAGO -- The stepmother of a Gary, Ind., boy who died after enduring daily beatings and being kept in a small cage for nearly two years has entered a plea deal with Lake County, Ind., prosecutors and will testify against her former husband in his murder trial in August.
Prosecutors have agreed to drop a charge of murder and 10 other felony counts filed against Kimberly Kubina last year after the body of her 13-year-old stepson, Christian Choate, was discovered buried in a Gary trailer park in 2011.
The body was found days after Christian's older sister told authorities that two years earlier, the boy had died after he was struck in the head by his father, Riley Choate.
The family had moved to Kentucky, and Christian's older sister, who also told authorities she beat and helped confine Christian -- and was beaten and sexually abused by Choate herself -- confessed to a relative in 2011, relating a gruesome tale of years of abuse that began when Christian was 11.
Kubina, 46, now faces only a single count of neglect of a dependent, and has agreed to take the stand against Choate, whom she divorced from jail in December. Kubina faces a sentence of 25 to 35 years on the remaining charge, according to the plea agreement.
Choate, 39, is set to go to trial on murder charges Aug. 14. Lake County Criminal Court Judge Diane Boswell has placed a gag order on attorneys in the case.
Some potential details of Kubina's possible testimony are revealed in a stipulation of facts filed with the plea agreement.
Kubina told authorities she began home-schooling Christian in 2007, when the family lived in Merrillville, because Choate had began beating the boy daily and she was concerned that school officials would notice Christian's bruises and report the family to the Department of Child Services.
At the time, Kubina and Choate had nine children living with them, and Kubina feared all of them would be taken into protective custody if authorities investigated the abuse, the agreement states.
The beatings began after Riley walked in on Choate and his younger stepbrother in a bedroom at the house, the document states, and the two boys were wearing no pants. Christian, the document states, had told the younger boy that "to be brothers, (he) had to play the 'hump game' with Christian Choate."
Christian thereafter was confined to his room in the basement of the Merrillville home, allowed to leave only to eat and use the bathroom, Kubina told authorities. Kubina said the boy was confined there even after they noticed he was relieving himself in the basement.
When the family moved to the rundown trailer park in Gary's Black Oak neighborhood where Kubina's mother and sister lived, Christian was confined first to their trailer's bathroom, then to a bedroom the boy shared with Choate, according to Kubina.
In late 2008, Christian escaped from the trailer. When Kubina and one of her nieces found the boy at a nearby Walgreens, Choate beat him and thereafter kept the boy in a dog cage, the plea agreement states. Christian's older sister was assigned to feed and care for him.
Christian's feet turned purple because of a circulatory problem that developed after he was confined to the cage, and the boy was allowed out of the cage for daily exercises.
When Christian began urinating and defecating on himself in the cage, Kubina made him wear diapers. His diet consisted of a packet of Ramen noodles for breakfast, and another for dinner, and a portion of the family meal at dinner, the agreement states.
Kubina eventually noticed the boy was losing weight -- at 13, he still fit into children's size 8 clothing -- and increased his rations to two packets of Ramen noodles per meal and a protein shake. For two years, Christian received occasional "cold water baths" by his older sister to reduce swelling and bruising from beatings meted out by Choate, the agreement states.
Around April 2, 2009, Kubina said she noticed Christian had been removed from his cage and lay on a baby mattress in the trailer, and appeared glassy-eyed and lethargic. Kubina told authorities she left the house for a school conference regarding one of her other children, and when she returned, Christian was dead.
She called Choate at work, and he told her to "take care of it" until he returned home. Kubina and her stepdaughter wrapped the boy's body in a blanket, stuffed him into a pair of trash bags, and then into a plastic tote, which they used to carry him across the street to Kubina's mother's trailer.
Kubina and her sister, who lived next door to the couple, took Kubina to a nearby Menard's, where she bought two bags of concrete and two of lime. That night, Kubina and Choate dug a hole in the floor of a shed in Kubina's mother's yard.
"(Kubina) placed a cross and a bible over Christian Choate's body, and watched as Riley Choate covered the body with dirt," the plea agreement states.
(c)2012 the Chicago Tribune
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