A makeshift memorial still sits on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge for Phoebe Jonchuck, the 5-year-old girl who was dropped off a bridge to her death this week.
Her father, Jon Jonchuck, is accused of the crime. Jonchuck was appointed an attorney at a court appearance on Monday. During Jonchuck's first appearance, he was asked about an attorney and he told the judge he was 'leaving it up to God.'
Meanwhile, the Department of Children and Families is making policy changes following the little girl’s death. Phoebe lived with her father and on the last day of her life, his behavior frightened his lawyer so much she called authorities and DCF. Deputies questioned Jonchuck but say they found nothing wrong.
“We've changed the protocol at the hotline. If somebody calls and alleges somebody is having some type of acute mental health episode, we're going to initiate immediate investigation each and every time on that,” said Department of Children and Families Secretary Mike Carroll.
DCF will be required now to meet with the parent and victim within four hours for an evaluation. But it's still not apparent if the new protocol would have helped Phoebe in this case because authorities said Jonchuck didn't appear to be a clear and present danger to his child.
Carroll said legally, it's tough to remove a child only if a parent is acting strange.
“We have lots of folks that have a mental illness that can be effective parents. As long as they're effectively dealing with their mental illness,” said Carroll. “We have folks that can be a functioning alcoholic and still be a parent whose child is not at (risk). Are they the ideal parent? No, but do we have enough to remove them? No.”
DCF has a Crisis Incident Rapid Response team investigating Phoebe's death to see if the agency may have handled things differently prior to that day. That report will be ready in about a month.