3-day run honors girl thrown from bridge by father

Friday marks one year since a 5-year-old girl was thrown off a bridge to her death at the hands of her own father.

As family members of Phoebe Jonchuck prepare for the anniversary of her death, a local man is preparing to honor her life in a special way.

Alex Estrella didn't know Phoebe or her family personally. But, after hearing what happened to her, he wanted to do something. This weekend, he's running for three days - nonstop - to help keep her memory alive and raise money for children just like her at Shriners Hospitals for Children.

January 8, 2015, investigators say John Johnchuck, Jr. threw Phoebe from the Dick Misener Bridge, leading to the Sunshine Skyway. A St. Pete Police Officer witnessed the horrific sight, as John Johnchuck threw his daughter 62-feet into the Tampa Bay.

A judge later found Jonchuck mentally incompetent to stand trial.

Like many others, the story hit Alex Estrella hard. Since then, he's kept the newspaper article on his dresser.

"I felt compelled to want to do something to remember this kid," Estrella said.

When he realized Phoebe's grandmother, Michele Jonchuck worked a few blocks from his home, his mission became clear.

"To turn a tragedy into something great," Estrella said.

Friday, the anniversary of Phoebe's death, he'll put on his running shoes.

For 3 days, with only short breaks, 57-year-old Estrella will run back and forth from Shriner's Headquarters in Tampa to Clearwater Beach, at times, with a heavy rucksack on his back.

"Getting to know her grandmother, I got to know Phoebe, what kind of kid she was, how she cared about other children in her class," Estrella said. "She was full of life. And I think I am getting a boost of that life that she had to make this a success."

This isn't the first time Estrella has done a run like this. Back in May, he ran for 12 days from Tampa to Key West to honor an Air Force Reservist who committed suicide.

Though not everyone can run alongside him, he's asking that they donate to Shriners Hospitals for Children in Tampa to help kids just like Phoebe get a chance at a happy, safe life.

"Phoebe's memory is going to live on in the sense of helping other children and of course, in people talking about what took place in those three days," Estrella said.

If you'd like to support Estrella, he starts his run at Shriners Headquarters on Rocky Point Drive in Tampa this Friday at 12:30 p.m.

We spoke to Phoebe's grandmother, Michele Jonchuck on the phone. She said she is so grateful for what Estrella is doing. She, along with a few others, are planning to walk along the route on Friday.