PLYMOUTH, Indiana — A statewide Silver Alert was canceled Thursday morning for 11-month-old Mercedes Lain of Plymouth, Indiana.
Police say the girl was found dead in a remote, wooded area in Starke County. The man who had been watching Mercedes, 37-year-old Justin Lee Miller, is charged in her death.
He is facing a count of neglect of a dependent resulting in death. Miller could face 20 to 40 years in prison if convicted.
Tiffany Coburn and Kenneth Lain, Mercedes' parents, are both facing a charge of neglect of a dependent for the circumstances of letting Miller watch their baby.
Police are waiting on results of the autopsy on Mercedes and said additional charges could be added.
Miller and Mercedes' parents are expected to have an initial hearing on Aug. 20.
1. Miller claimed someone else had Mercedes
In court document, Kenneth Lain and Tiffany Coburn said they left their daughter Mercedes with a family relative, Justin Miller on Aug. 13. The parents had claimed they left the baby with Miller for a few days so they could have a break.
They called police Aug. 15 to report Mercedes missing. According to court documents, they told police Miller said he left Mercedes with a neighbor since Lain and Coburn were not home.
2. Police had trouble contacting Mercedes' parents
During the search for Mercedes, police were also searching for her parents.
According to court documents, before calling police about their missing baby, the two dropped a duffel bag off at a neighbor's. The duffel bag contained a safe and court documents said it is believed the "safe contains illegal narcotics."
When officers tried to follow up with Lain and Coburn about the timeline of events involving Mercedes, they said they were unable to make contact until Aug. 16 at 8:30 a.m. Police said that Coburn said she was coming in to talk to them, and was waiting on a ride from her sister.
Police said Coburn never showed up and when they talked to her sister, she told them she had not seen Coburn since 3 a.m. when "she dropped them off from looking for the baby."
In court documents, both Coburn and Lain were noted as being "uncooperative in looking for their child."
Coburn was ultimately found outside of the Economy Inn the afternoon of Aug. 16. Lain was located at the Red Rock Inn in Plymouth around 6 p.m. Aug. 16.
3. Communicating through Facebook Messenger
During Coburn's questioning with police, she allegedly admitted she had been in contact with Lain and Miller multiple times during the timeframe Mercedes was missing using Facebook Messenger. The court documents said Coburn also admitted using methamphetamine on numerous occasions.
The court documents say Lain also said he was communicating with Coburn and Miller using Facebook Messenger. While he allegedly had been in contact with Miller, he did not know Miller's whereabouts.
4. Miller on Mercedes' death
According to court documents, Miller gave conflicting information over several days on his whereabouts during the days Mercedes was missing. He had even claimed at one point that he had dropped the baby off with a neighbor.
On Aug. 18, police interviewed Miller again at the Marshall County Jail. In court documents, Miller said that on Aug. 14, he was at a home in Mishawaka, St. Joseph County and when he woke up, Mercedes was dead.
Investigators said Miller then told them he had disposed of the baby's body at a property in Starke County. Later on Aug. 18, court documents allege Miller led officers to 1025 East and 40 North in Starke County where Mercedes' body was found.
5. Why an Amber Alert was not issued
Police were asked why an Amber Alert was not issued earlier on in the disappearance of Mercedes.
The criteria for issuing an Amber Alert are as follows:
- There is reasonable belief by law enforcement that an abduction has occurred.
- The law enforcement agency believes that the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death.
- There is enough descriptive information about the victim and the abduction for law enforcement to issue an AMBER Alert to assist in the recovery of the child.
- The abduction is of a child aged 17 years or younger.
- The child’s name and other critical data elements, including the Child Abduction flag, have been entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system.
In the case of Mercedes' disappearance, a Silver Alert was issued. It included descriptive information on Mercedes, Miller and that she was believed to be in danger.
Plymouth Police Chief David Bacon said Miller was a family relative of the Lains and because they gave him Mercedes to watch, there was no abduction to issue an Amber Alert.
Police did say the Silver Alert assisted in finding Miller and his car.
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