A missing infant was found dead in the woods of northern Indiana on Wednesday evening. On Thursday, the baby’s parents and last known babysitter were arrested and charged in connection with her death.
Mercedes Lain was 11 months old when she disappeared earlier this month. The timeline for her disappearance is currently a matter of dispute. While a statewide Silver Alert says she was last seen alive at 12:30 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 14, court documents suggest the girl left her parents’ side well before that.
Despite the shaky order of events, police in Mishawaka, Ind., began searching for Mercedes after she was reported missing Sunday, Aug. 15 by her parents, Kenneth Lain, 41 and Tiffany Coburn, 32.
According to probable cause affidavits obtained by local CBS/Fox affiliate WSBT, the couple allegedly dropped their daughter off with “family relative” Justin Miller, 37, the Thursday or Friday before she went missing “for a few days” in order to give themselves “a break.”
At first, Miller was “supposed to” bring the baby back the following day but the trio eventually “decided that Miller would bring her [back] on Sunday,” court documents allege. The couple told police they “attempted to get a hold of Miller numerous times” but could not contact him. “They finally contacted him on Sunday, and Miller advised that he had dropped [Mercedes] off with a neighbor since Lain and Coburn weren’t home,” according to those affidavits.
The Silver Alert was then issued which asked for information about Miller and the baby–containing a description of his vehicle.
The suspect was located around 3:30 a.m on Aug. 16 and allegedly waived his rights before a police interview. During that custodial interview, he said Lain had contacted him about purchasing synthetic marijuana on Aug. 12 that eventually led to a discussion about how the couple were having a “rough time” with their infant daughter.
Police say Miller’s “recollection of events changed several times” during the interview. He allegedly told various stories including one about going to a McDonald’s and one about going to a girlfriend’s.
Miller allegedly settled on the following: “[H]e dropped [Mercedes] off at the Economy [Inn] with a shorty [sic], heavy set white female that he had seen on several occasion [sic] in Kenneth and Tiffany’s room. He did not know her name. And no one was at the room, so he thought it would be ok, because he had an appointment to to go to.”
At this time, police say, their first suspect admitted to using synthetic marijuana while he was supposed to be tending to the child and said that he had, in fact, communicated with the parents via Facebook Messenger. Police say “it was learned” that Coburn had been in touch with Miller “numerous times during the time period” Mercedes was known to be missing. They also allege that Lain “admitted to speaking with Coburn and Miller through Facebook Messenger” and that he “been in contact with Miller throughout the weekend.”
Police also allege that they made various “unsuccessful” attempts to contact the couple about their missing baby.
“Both Coburn and Lain have been uncooperative in looking for their child,” the court documents allege.
According to local NBC affiliate WTHR, Miller was interviewed again on Aug. 18 while detained at the Marshall County Jail. That time, however, he told police he woke up to find Mercedes dead on Aug. 14 at a home in St. Joseph County. He allegedly said he then disposed of her body on a Starke County property later that day.
In a Thursday morning press conference, Marshall County Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Nelson Chipman announced that the girl’s body was found “in a remote, obscure, densely forested area.”
Miller is currently charged with neglect of a dependent resulting in death and is being held without bond. Lain and Coburn have been charged with neglect of a dependent and are being held on $15,000 bond, according to The Goshen News.
It is currently unclear how Mercedes died.
[images via Marshall County]
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