A judge in Lake County, Indiana has denied a defense request for a new autopsy in the death of Christian Choate, a boy who authorities believe was locked in a cage and beaten regularly for over a year before he died.
The boy's father, Riley Choate, and his stepmother Kimberly Kubina, have been charged with a litany of crimes, including murder, battery, neglect, and moving a dead body. They have both pleaded not guilty.
Although a final autopsy report has not yet been issued, court records show that the cause of Christian's death has been determined to be blunt force trauma, which caused internal bleeding and a skull fracture.
In an attempt to bolster his case, Riley Choate's attorney Randy Godshalk had asked that a second, independent autopsy be performed. That defense request forced Christian's burial, scheduled for late June, to be postponed.
But Judge Diane Boswell denied the request on Tuesday, according to the Northwest Indiana Times.
She left open the possibility of reconsidering it, however. The coroner's final report on the first autopsy is set to come in on Friday, and if Judge Boswell sees reason to believe a second one could provide additional information, she could still allow it.
Christian Choate's body was found buried under a thin layer of concrete behind his former mobile home in May of this year. According to investigators, he was buried there more than two years prior, in April of 2009. His sister told authorities that his father had kept him locked in a cage for the last year of his life, letting him out only for occasional meals and repeated, savage beatings.
While locked in the cage, he wrote letters describing the abuse he suffered, repeating that he was hungry and thirsty, and expressing his desire to die. He also responded to prompts from his stepmother like "Why do you want to play with your peter?", "Why do you still want to see your mom?" and "Why can't you let the past go?"
One night, according to authorities, Riley beat Christian to the point of unconsciousness. The next morning, his sister Christina found him dead in his cage. Riley then allegedly dug a shallow grave for the boy, moved his family to Kentucky, and made Christina vow never to tell anyone about what had happened. Only when he moved away from her two years later did she alert her stepsister, who told Christian's birth mother. She then called the police, which led to his body's discovery and Riley Choate and Kimberly Kubina's arrests.
Information on the legal proceedings has been somewhat hard to come by, however, since Judge Boswell issued a gag order on the Indiana Department of Child Services and other parties involved in the case last week, instructing them not to speak to the media.