The search for 11-month-old Mercedes Lain ended about 9 p.m. Wednesday night when her body was located near the line between Starke and Marshall Counties in a remote area.
Marshall County Prosecuting Attorney Nelson Chipman addressed reporters Thursday morning from the Marshal County Sheriff’s Department. He gave a timeline for the case saying Mercedes’s parents, Tiffany Coburn and Kenny Lain gave the baby to Justin Miller on Friday, August 13th because they needed a break. The affidavit said he was to return her on Sunday.
A 911 call Sunday night, August 15th sent Plymouth Police to the Economy to take a missing persons report for the 11-month-old. A Silver Alert was activated late Sunday evening after police were able to locate the parents. About 3:30 Monday morning police located Justin Miller and his vehicle in Koontz Lake. At that time he did not have Mercedes with him.
Police took Miller into custody and Chipman said he was interrogated several times. During the interrogation on Wednesday, August 18th Miller told investigators when he was in Mishawaka on or about Saturday, August 14th and sleeping. He said when he woke up Mercedes was dead. He told police he had disposed of her body in Starke County. He then took officers to the scene at 1025 East and 50 North. Mercedes’ body was located back in a wooded area away from the roadway.
Justin Miller has been charged with Neglect of a Dependent Resulting in Death as a Level 1 Felony. Chipman said if convicted the sentence for Miller would be 20 to 40 years. Those charges could be amended pending the results of an autopsy.
Chipman said the Marshall County Coroners office is seeking a pediatric forensic specialist to conduct the autopsy. The results of the autopsy will confirm for investigators the cause of death which hasn’t been determined at this time.
The Prosecutor said they don’t believe Mercedes’s parents were directly involved in her death and that they were unaware that she was deceased. Both Tiffany Coburn and Kenneth Lain have been charged with Neglect of a Dependent. If convicted they could each be sentenced to 1½ to 2½ years.
During the press conference Chipman introduced Paul Keenan the Special Agent in Charge of the Indianapolis Field Office who thanked all the partners involved in the investigation including local law enforcement officers and the Indiana State Police. He said the FBI is ready to assist any time a child goes missing especially at such a tender age and said they flew in staff from around the country at the request of local law enforcement to try and bring this to a resolution as quickly as possible. While the conclusion wasn’t what anybody wanted, it was a strong effort of everyone involved.