A man under investigation after his daughter's body was found in an Illinois garage said in a jailhouse interview that she choked to death accidentally, and his wife found the place to hide the body.
Jason Quate made the stunning comments during an interview that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Thursday. Quate, who is jailed in Las Vegas on prostitution-related charges, declined multiple interview requests from The Associated Press.
Authorities found the girl's body Tuesday in a garage behind a dilapidated and vacant home in Centreville, Illinois, near St. Louis, after Quate's wife alerted police in Las Vegas, where she, Quate and two other daughters now live. The woman also accused Quate of forcing her into sex trafficking and abusing their other two daughters.
Police believe the child was killed about four years ago, when she was 6.
Quate, 34, faces a court hearing Friday on charges of felony sex trafficking and living from the earnings of a prostitute. No charges have been filed in his daughter's death.
Quate told the Post-Dispatch that the girl choked to death when he spanked her, unaware that she still had Salisbury steak in her mouth. A day earlier, he told KSNV-TV in Las Vegas that his wife had told him she had put the girl up for adoption. He told the Post-Dispatch that he had lied to the TV station and that his wife had come up with the adoption story after their daughter died.
In his interview with the newspaper, he repeatedly referred to what happened with his daughter as "horrible."
"I'm not the monster she's making me out to be," he said of his wife.
Quate said he and his wife were afraid to call police out of fear their other children would be taken from them. He said they kept the girl's body in their home in Belleville, Illinois, for some time. Eventually, Quate said, his wife came up with the idea to work as a prostitute in Las Vegas. Before they left, she found a garage in Centreville, where the body was dumped, he said.
The family moved to Las Vegas two years ago. Their two teenage daughters are now in protective custody. Police said the girls were never allowed outside, even to attend school. A police lieutenant said the girls lacked socialization skills and showed signs of abuse.
A separate child abuse charge against Quate is pending, said Audrie Locke, an aide to Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson in Las Vegas.
A judge is expected to appoint a lawyer to represent Quate at Friday's court hearing.
Jail records showed that the mother was also jailed in Las Vegas pending a Monday court appearance as a fugitive on an out-of-state warrant. St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly didn't immediately respond to messages about the warrant.
The Associated Press is withholding the woman's name to avoid identifying the children and because authorities said she is considered a victim in the sex trafficking and prostitution case. She has not been charged with a crime in Las Vegas.
Any charges related to the girl's death would be filed in Illinois, where investigators found the remains. Centreville is an impoverished community just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. The coroner in St. Clair County said an autopsy was planned.