An Indiana boy who was beaten, starved, locked in a dog cage and otherwise neglected by his father and stepmother for months prior his 2009 death can finally rest in a little more peace thanks to the generosity of a stranger.
A donated headstone for Christian Choate was dedicated Friday morning at the Ridgelawn Cemetery in Gary, Ind., not far from where the 13-year-old boy was found buried under a thin layer of concrete in May 2011.
Christian's story attracted national headlines for its gruesomeness. The young boy is believed to have died in April 2009, after being kept locked in a three-foot-high dog cage for at least the last year of his life. He was reportedly only let out of the cage to eat and use the bathroom and was often starved and beaten. He weighed less than 50 pounds at the time of his death and had reportedly been so brutalized that his "body was purple," CBS Chicago reported this week.
An autopsy showed that Christian suffered blunt force trauma to his body, internal bleeding and a skull fracture before his death.
Christian's body had been left unmarked prior to the headstone being installed and, prior to being buried, was left in the morgue for a year and a half after he was found dead, according to NBC Chicago.
Patricia Breslin of Arlington, Wash., had spent a year collecting the $2,000 in donations to pay for the headstone after she began following his story online in 2011 and learned shortly thereafter that his relatives could not afford a grave marker, the Post-Tribune reports.
"You’ll always shine on this world, Christian," Breslin said Friday of the boy whose face and smile she said "broke her heart" when she saw it online.
Christian's grandfather, Bernard Erik, was among the family members that attended the Friday dedication.
“Now he knows that he’s well loved, and could be happy now," he said, according to WGN.
Riley Choate was sentenced earlier this year to 80 years in prison in his son's death, while Christian's stepmother, Kimberly Kubina, was sentenced to 35 years after accepting a plea deal to testify against her former husband.
In an interview this week, Riley Choate told CBS Chicago he was not the only one to blame for failing his son. "Quite a few people," he said, knew about how Christian was being treated, including Indiana Department of Child Services officials who visited the Choate home more than 10 times during the boy's life but never reported anything was wrong.
“I’m not taking responsibility for the murder," he told the station.