Skip to main content

Indiana Man Gets 55 Years Over ‘Horror Show’ Robbery-Turned-Murder Where Victim’s Head Was Beaten So Brutally It Sounded Like ‘Crunching Gravel’


Ethan Cain appears in a mugshot

An Indiana man was recently sentenced to a maximum of 55 years in state prison for a years-old murder that occurred in one of the nation’s most notoriously violent and rumored-to-be haunted marshlands.

Ethan Cain, 24, pleaded guilty to the felony murder of 22-year-old Drake Smith last year. The incident occurred in May 2018 in a part of Indiana’s Frances Slocum State Forest known as Okie Pinokie. He will serve at least 50 years behind bars.

Cain was also originally charged with robbery resulting in serious bodily injury, obstruction of justice, and misdemeanor theft. Per the terms of his plea agreement, the lesser charges were dropped.

The defendant was accused of being part of a three-person plot to rob Smith of his drugs and money. Also accused were 27-year-old Joshua Kean and 20-year-old Brittany Morris. Authorities say the end result was that all four made their way to the state forest whereupon Cain and Kean beat Smith to death with a metal pipe following a party.

A witness allegedly told police they saw Kean and Morris begin to steal multiple items from Smith’s truck as Cain took the pipe and began beating the victim in the face, according to probable cause affidavits obtained by the Kokomo, Ind.-based newspaper, the Kokomo Tribune. That witness allegedly went on to tell investigators that they all left the scene of the crime after the slaying–with Smith’s clothes, money, drugs, beer and a small speaker in tow.

The victim’s body was discovered just before 10 a.m. on May 19, 2018 by hikers who were hunting for mushrooms.

Police say the woman was the genesis of the plot.

Court documents cited by the Tribune claim that Morris knew Smith would have drugs on the night he was killed. Police say surveillance footage from a Walmart parking lot in Marion, Ind. showed Morris getting into Smith’s truck–after leaving a car with Kean and Cain–just after midnight on May 18, 2018. In the video, according to police, Kean and Cain then walked into the big box store to buy a cheesecake.

After that, the footage allegedly shows, Smith and Morris drive off towards Okie Pinokie. A few minutes later, Kean and Cain are seen driving off in the same direction, investigators claim.

The witness allegedly told law enforcement they partied with Morris, Smith, and others until roughly 2 a.m. That’s when the crowd thinned out the witness said, and also when Kean and Cain arrived.

The witness, a woman whose name is not being revealed, allegedly went on to say Cain was the first to strike–walking towards Smith and attempting to choke him from behind. Kean was the first one with the pipe, she allegedly said, hitting the victim in the face.

Smith allegedly begged for his life before his murder, the witness continued, telling his assailants to take whatever they wanted.

Instead, they took everything.

“He’s dead,” the witness said she heard one of the defendants say before they departed with the fatally beaten man’s belongings.

While driving along Indiana State Road 15, the murder weapon was allegedly thrown out a window. The pipe was later recovered by investigators near a smallish bridge in Grant County, Ind.

A week after the killing, Kean and Cain were spotted at a California campground near the U.S.-Mexico border. Cain was arrested by the Imperial County California Sheriff’s Department. While Kean initially escaped, he was arrested three days later. Morris was charged in connection with the murder while in a juvenile detention facility where she was being detained for an unrelated probation violation.

Cain was sentenced last Tuesday. During the hearing, Miami County probation officer Cathy Knight described the killing as “brutal” and a “horror show.” Graphically, she described the witness as saying the sound of the pipe hitting the victim’s head as akin to “crunching gravel.”

Morris has a pretrial conference currently slated for Feb. 10, 2022; Kean has a conference scheduled for March 24, 2022.

“We were all given a life sentence that day,” prosecuting attorney Jeffrey Sinkovics said during the sentencing hearing, reading from a victim impact statement written by Smith’s mother, Karrie Sheets. “It’s an emptiness that will never go away.”

[image via Indiana State Police]

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime: