DCF roundup: Jonchuck competent, victims compensation bill, minor left alone by DCF-contractor, burns on toddler’s back & alleged child molester

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On Friday a Pinellas County judge ruled John Jonchuck competent to stand trial in the alleged murder of his five-year-old daughter, Phoebe, when he threw her off a St. Petersburg-area bridge. She fell more than 60 feet into the water. In her last few hours, several calls had been made to law enforcement officials and the Department of Children and Families (DCF) hotline warning of her father’s behavior. The calls were noted and filed.

But within hours Phoebe had died, a killing that alarmed the Tampa Bay community, and more broadly, Florida residents. DCF has instituted significant changes, but many think more needs to be done, including Jonchuck’s former lawyer, Genevieve Torres.

Jonchuck’s trial is expected to begin in the fall, but a pre-trial hearing is already set for March 27 at 1:30 p.m.

In other news:

 A claims bill sponsored by St. Sen. Anitere Flores began moving through the senate, according to Miami’s WLRN, quoting Flores. SB 18 compensates kids in DCF custody who are survivors of abuse and the estates of minors who are victims in abuse leading to their deaths.

This is the fourth time the bill has been proposed by Flores and it passed its first committee in the senate last week. It still has to be heard in the House. The bill was inspired to compensate the surviving sibling of a sister and brother adopted by horribly abusive parents — the sister died.

 Then there’s this odd story out of Ft. Myers about an unattended 13-yr-old girl loitering about in front of a library. A woman near a librarian noticed her and took her to get some food. The young girl told the woman that her “case worker” dropped her off.  Another woman joined them, trying to help figure things out.

When a woman, Jacinta Brunson, working for Lutheran Services Florida – a subcontractor of the Department of Children and Families – rolled up in a Mustang and copped an attitude when the women asked who she was and that she needed to present identification before they would let the girl go with her, Brunson refused to identify herself to the women, who called the police.

Then two DCF employees showed up, flashed their badges and whisked the girl away.

(Did someone call the Gestapo?)

— A toddler was dropped off at a school in Miami with burns on her back, according to Miami 7 News. It’s being investigated by DCF.

— Then there’s this guy, accused of sexually abusing children, out of Gainesville. It’s being investigated by law enforcement and DCF officials, according to The Gainesville Sun.

Les Neuhaus is an all-platform journalist, with specialties in print reporting and writing. In addition to Florida Politics, he freelances as a general-assignment and breaking-news reporter for most of the major national daily newspapers, along with a host of digital media, and a human rights group. A former foreign correspondent across Africa and Asia, including the Middle East, Les covered a multitude of high-profile events in chronically-unstable nations. He’s a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, in which he served as a Security Policeman, and graduated from the University of Tennessee with a B.A. in political science. He is a proud father to his daughter and enjoys spending time with his family.