Girl, 5, was thrown over bridge 1 year ago

Posted at 8:55 PM, Jan 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-06 08:29:15-05

MORE: Watch the story and interview in the video player above.

Michelle Kerr's hands still shake, her voice still trembles and her heart is still breaking one year after the death of her 5-year-old daughter Phoebe.

Living tucked away in San Antonio, a small town in Florida, she still grieves.

"Why that way? Why any way?" Kerr repeatedly asks.

This mother, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, says she is learning to accept her daughter's death.

Phoebe was thrown off the Dick Meisner Bridge into the frigid Bay waters below.

Pinellas County deputies say her father, John Jonchuck Jr., committed the unthinkable crime on January 8, 2015.

According to Kerr, Phoebe was not able to swim and was afraid of water.

The little girl's body was pulled out of Tampa Bay by members of the Eckerd Dive Team.

"She was so cold and she always did not like the water to be to cold when I gave her a shower," Kerr recalled.

The scene would become a memorial site later that night.

Kerr says she clutched a purple balloon that had the name Phoebe written on it because she felt if she could keep the balloon warm, she could keep Phoebe warm.

The balloon is not at the center of a shrine to Phoebe in Kerr's bedroom.  Surrounding the balloon are pictures of Phoebe, some alone, some with her mother and some with her two half siblings.

"That is what I look at everyday, her smile,' Kerr said.


In her first TV interview this year, Kerr told ABC Action News she has been seeing a therapist to help her cope.

She's also has a morning ritual.  She awakes in time for sunrise and turns on Phoebe's favorite song.

"I would sing it to her in the morning and I would do a gesture of extending my arms out and giving her a big hug and I will tell her i love her so much," Kerr explained.

Kerr says she cries but cuts the ritual short because she doesn't want her other children to see her cry.

She calls her children her strength.

"I want to show Phoebe that as she shines on, so can I," Kerr explained.


Kerr says she still struggles to comprehend how and why her daughter was so brutally killed.

Last may, the Pinellas-Pasco County State Attorney's Office released video excerpts of Jonchuck during an interrogation following the death of his daughter, the 911 call placed by an officer who reportedly witnessed Jonchuck throw his 5-year-old daughter Phoebe off the Dick Meisner Bridge and crime scene photos.

"I want to talk about this because I need someone to obviously help me," JonChuck told detectives.  "I think that there is something bigger going on like that is beyond me, beyond everything."

The two hours of video was taken around 3 a.m. January 8, 2014.

In much of the video, Jonchuck puts his head down on the table.  He is wearing pajama pants, an orange shirt and a grey, zip up sweatshirt.

"It is almost like I am not being weird, this is like a conspiracy.  I went looking for answers.  I always had problems growing up like wondering who I was and what my purpose was," Jonchuck told detectives.

Jonchuck does not appear upset and only once asked about his daughter.

"Is Phoebe OK?" he asked.

During the redacted video, Jonchuck mostly remains quiet, tells detectives he wants to talk and then asks for an attorney.

"My name is God and you shall address me as such!  Terri, I command you to take me to the City of Babylon now!" he told a St. Pete detective.

Kerr says she has never heard from Jonchuck and doesn't want to.  Nor does she want to see him.

However, she said just months ago, he placed a phone call to his mother, which was recorded.  When his mother asked Jonchuck why he did what he did, Kerr said he told his mother it was because "she wanted to go for a swim."