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Mikayla Munn looking for redemption after serving time for death of her baby

Mikayla Munn pleaded guilty in 2018 to neglect of a dependent resulting in bodily injury or death. She spent six years in the Indiana Women's Prison.

WABASH, Ind. — When you look at pictures of Mikayla Munn at Manchester University, she looked like a happy college student-athlete. But, the smiles were hiding problems.

"I wasn't much of a drinker. I started drinking a lot more. I started isolating myself more," Munn said. "I was really bitter and angry at my teammates, my parents, almost everybody."

Munn said she coped with depression by drinking and using prescription pills. During her senior year, Munn got pregnant.

"Yes, I was trying to hide it. I was more ashamed," Munn said.

Munn gave birth to a boy in a dorm bathroom.

"I remember at one point my body is telling me, 'You have to push,' and after that, everything gets really fuzzy," Munn said. "Next thing I remember was someone pounding on my dorm room door, and it happened to be campus police."

Police found Munn in a bathtub in her dorm room with the boy. The newly born child was not breathing and was taken with his mother to an area hospital.

"I remember at one point, they took him out of the water, and they put him in my lap. I remember looking at him. I can't tell you what his face looks like," Munn said.

Her baby died. Court records show law enforcement and EMS members noting a lack of remorse by Munn at the time and multiple inconsistencies in her account of what happened, what she did and did not know about her pregnancy and steps she did or did not take after giving birth.

Munn was treated and released from the hospital and then later arrested for murder and neglect of a dependent resulting in death.

"I wish I could switch him spots. I wish I never got that far...deep into my depression that I felt like I had nowhere else to go," Munn said.

Munn attempted suicide before pleading guilty in 2018 to neglect of a dependent resulting in bodily injury or death. She spent six years in the Indiana Women's Prison.

"People would call you names. They'd call you 'baby killer.' 'BK,'" Munn said.

RELATED: Manchester Univ. student arrested for murder for newborn son's death

But inside her prison cell, there was an experience that led her to faith in God.

"I remember looking up at the light," Munn said. "The light's on 24/7, and there's this cross in the light, and I said, 'Alright, I know what that means.' My grandparents have a relationship with God, but I did not. I said, 'You must be real. You must be somewhere. You're in this nasty, wet cell,'" Munn said. "I felt like someone was holding me and letting me know I got you. Everything's going to be OK."

Munn said her faith grew behind bars.

"When I started putting Him first and everybody else second, things started lining up," Munn said. "I've learned God uses the mistakes that we've made to propel us forward to something greater."

While Munn was behind bars, baby "Alexander Liam" was laid to rest in a burial arranged by the baby's father and Indianapolis resident Linda Znachko, who runs a ministry called He Knows Your Name.

"I give dignity to babies in death and in name and in life," Znachko said. "I've claimed 37 babies in 13 years."

The two women began an email conversation.

"There was a friendship. She was praying for me. I was praying for her. I was encouraging her with scripture and what scripture I was working on," Znachko said.

Munn said Znachko helped get her through trials and depression in prison.

"Her finding her faith with God is no small thing. It's everything," Znachko said. "Her prayer life got her through serving and doing it well. The judge called her a model inmate."

RELATED: Woman gets prison in death of baby delivered in bathtub

Munn had been sentenced to 12 years in prison, with three years suspended to formal probation. She got out after serving six years.

In late May, Munn went to Znachko's house and watched video of the entire funeral for the first time since getting out of prison.

Munn said she thinks about her son every day.

"I can't bring him back no matter what I do. I can't bring him back," Munn said. "But I can move forward by helping somebody else by telling my story."

"I found her humility just something that was so beautiful and sacred. I thought, 'I trust her, and I want her to trust me. I want to share my ministry with her when I can, and I want her to grow in her ability to share her story so it can impact others,'" Znachko said.

Credit: WTHR

Znachko said Munn can be the voice for Indiana's Safe Haven Baby Boxes, which gives moms a safe place to give away their newborns. That option was not available when Munn was pregnant.

"I realize when Mikayla was in a crisis pregnancy. She delivered her baby on March 8, and 45 days later, the very first Safe Haven Baby Box was put in Fort Wayne, Indiana," Znachko said. "Even then, there was no website, and there was no hotline. So I know, when she Googled with her questions, there was not a resource coming up for her."

Court documents show the Elkhart woman did search online for home abortion methods about three weeks before she gave birth. Indiana also had the Safe Haven Law in place at that time, which enables a person to give up an unwanted infant anonymously without fear of arrest or prosecution. The law was well-documented and extensively reported on and would have appeared in search results on surrendering a newborn.

Znachko believes Munn will be an example of redemption for other women facing similar struggles.

"If they have circumstances surrounding them that are very unstable and they feel alone, they feel under-resourced, fear sets in," Znachko said. "A lot of women are struggling with depression or substance abuse for all different kinds of reasons, and they just can't seem to get a handle on where to go for help. The crisis line for Safe Haven Baby Boxes is one of the best resources that we have in this country."

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