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Indiana Authorities on Christian Choate: "We Failed Him"

By Chuck Sudo in News on May 26, 2011 6:00PM

Christian Choate (left) and Riley Choate

Indiana child welfare officials are admitting that they were unable to keep tabs on Christian Choate, the boy who was found buried in a makeshift grave across them road from the Gary trailer where his father and stepmother are accused of keeping him in a cage. Lavetta Sparks-Wade, who headed the Lake County (IN) Child Protective Services investigators until her 2009 retirement, was matter-of-fact in her assessment. "We failed him," Sparks-Wade said.

The Tribune interviewed neighbors of Choate, his father Riley and stepmother Kimberly (Kubina) Choate, and those neighbors indicated that child welfare authorities were a regular presence at the Choate household. Neighbor Lori Wingard told the tribune that as many as 10 kids were in the trailer at any given time and were coming and going at all hours of the day, even during school hours. Wingard said she only saw Christian Choate once, and that he looked "terrified" as his father screamed at him. The Choates, according to Wingard, told her that Christian needed to be "guarded 24 hours a day." She also said she called DCS on the Choats on a couple of occasions.

Sparks-Wade told the Tribune that it appeared DCS caseworkers didn't do a thorough enough investigation on allegations that Christian Choate was being abused.

"I can tell you if someone told me there was a boy in a cage, we would have removed that child from the home immediately," said Sparks-Wade, a DCS caseworker and administrator for 15 years.

"No one must have talked to this child, or the other children in the house," Sparks-Wade said. "An experienced caseworker would have known something was wrong if that level of abuse was going on in that household."