Man who threw child off Florida bridge refuses lawyer, says he wants to 'leave it in the hands of God'

John Jonchuck(Pinellas County Jail)

A father has been charged with first-degree murder after throwing his 5-year-old daughter off a bridge in St Petersburg, Florida.

According to Police Chief Anthony Holloway, Officer Vickers spotted John Jonchuck around midnight as he was driving southbound on Highway 275.

When police followed him, he stopped near the top of the Dick Misener Bridge.

"The subject got out of the vehicle he started saying something... the officer had no idea what he was saying," said Holloway, according to USA Today.

Jonchuck then proceeded to walk towards his car and grab his daughter Phoebe, before tossing her over the railing. The 5-yr-old girl fell 60 feet down the water.

According to Officer Yolanda Fernandez, the body of the child was discovered after an hour-long extensive search conducted by several dive teams. Phoebe was taken to All Children's Hospital but was pronounced dead at 2:44am.

The suspect reportedly fled the scene in his car and led the officers on a chase down the wrong way of the Interstate before he was eventually stopped by deputies of Manatee County after a 30-minutes pursuit.

Local officials reported that it is unclear if the girl was alive or dead before she fell. Although the arrest affidavit of the suspect indicated Phoebe was alive before she was thrown over the bridge and she may have drowned, a pending autopsy is being done to confirm the cause of death.

According to the Associated Press, twelve hours before the incident, the attorney of Jonchuck had called the police to report her client's strange behaviour. She alleged Jonchuck had called her 'God' and asked her to translate the Bible in Swedish

Jonchuck appeared in court over his daughter's death on Thursday and according to USA Today, told Pinellas Judge Michael Andrews that he did not want a lawyer but instead wanted to "leave it in the hands of God".

Pinellas Judge Michael Andrews responded, "I'm pretty sure God's not going to be representing you in this case. You're going to be standing trial".  He ordered Jonchuck be held without bond.

Local officials have notified the mother of the girl, Michelle Kerr, who is reported to be in shock over her daughter's death.

According to USA Today, a family friend, Melinda Dishman, told the police that Jonchuck and his daughter lived with her for a few months before they left in October, and that he was abusing drugs. He also had a previous record of arrest - including domestic battery in 2008 and a DUI charge in 2013.

However, Dishman told USA Today that they often said "I love you" to each other and she never thought he would hurt his daughter.