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Police find body of missing Spencer toddler Shaylyn Ammerman; cause of death was asphyxiation

Police have found the body of missing Spencer toddler Shaylyn Ammerman and have arrested a man in connection with the case.
Shaylyn Ammerman

The coroner has determined that one-year-old Shaylyn Ammerman died from asphyxiation. Her death has been ruled a homicide.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Donna Stewart performed the autopsy at the State of Kentucky Medical Examiner's Office in Louisville, Kentucky.

Shaylyn's body was found Thursday, a day after she was reported missing from her home. Investigators have not found any weapon in the case.

22-year-old Kyle Parker has been arrested in connection with her death and faces preliminary charges of two counts of obstruction of justice, one count of failure to report a dead body, and one count of improper disposal of a corpse. Owen County Prosecutor Don VanDerMoere said he hopes to make formal charging decisions by Monday.

"The hope is that by Monday we will be in a position to make appropriate charging decisions," he said.

State police say the body of an infant female matching Shaylyn's description was found in a remote area near the White River northeast of Gosport. 

"Very, very rural area. It's a private access. It's on private property near Gosport," said ISP Sgt. Curt Durnil. Investigators will return to that scene Friday to look for more clues about what happened to the little girl.

Law enforcement agencies continued to investigate several crime scenes on Friday, including scene security at the Ammerman home on West Jefferson Street in Spencer and an additional crime scene located near the White River northeast of Gosport. Indiana State Police Crime Scene Investigators are continuing to process the scene where Baby Shaylyn Ammerman was discovered.

Indiana State Police Detectives are continuing their efforts in interviewing witnesses and other persons of interest. These efforts also include video documentation of areas of interest and collection of evidence.

Kyle Parker, 22, of Spencer, was taken into custody in connection with the case, which remains under investigation. Relatives of the girl didn't mince words when discussing the news or the man in custody.

"Burn in hell, Kyle Parker," said Shaylyn's father, Justin Ammerman.

"Kyle or whoever is the cause of it, I hope the wrath of God comes on him," said grandfather Daniel Morgan.

Through a family friend, Shaylyn's mother, Jessica Morgan, told us she had no comment Thursday night. On Facebook, she posted "Heartbroken. My baby girl Shaylyn is gone. They found her body tonight."

State police say they were led to the girl's body by information generated by the nearly two-day investigation. They said they talked to up to ten persons of interest in the case, but say it's too early to call the investigation over.

Parker faces preliminary charges of two counts of obstruction of justice, one count of failure to report a dead body, and one count of improper disposal of a corpse. 

Specific charges are to be worked out by the Owen County prosecutor. Parker's exact role in the case is still unclear and it remains to be seen if more people will be charged.

An autopsy Friday in Louisville is expected to provide more answers.

"I would still say that we are interested in speaking to these people to get the full story and that's what we would love to do," Sgt. Durnil said. "We would love to clear them of any suspicion or any action. That would be our goal, but clearly, in those investigations, other things come out and we go from there for the investigative process."

Adam Ammerman, the victim's uncle, spent part of Thursday submitting to a lie detector test. He had sharp words for Parker.

"I'm just going to speak plain and clearly. Whoever did this needs to burn in hell," said uncle Adam Ammerman. "There's no need for something like this to happen."

Police knew Parker was in the house the night of the toddler's disappearance, but say they have not yet put together a timeline of his whereabouts when she went missing or when she died.

Wednesday night, Shaylyn's grandmother, Tamera Morgan told Eyewitness News there hadn't been a loud party at the father's home as some had said.

"There was one person that came over last night. It was Kyle. He and Adam were in his room," Morgan said.

An autopsy has been scheduled for Friday, where the Owen County Coroner's Office will positively identify the toddler and determine the cause of death.

Despite the tragedy, police thanked members of the community who volunteered their time, efforts and resources to assist in the search for Shaylyn.

"To bring a community together takes a lot. And in a tragic way like this, this community has come together in an outstanding way," Sgt. Durnil said. "Nobody’s going home, nobody wants to stop, 'What can I do to help?' I fielded hundreds, it felt like hundreds of emails today – 'How can I help? How can I help?'

"You want to give them something to do, but that's how tight-knit this community is. They all came together and helped and it gives me goosebumps just talking about it."

Earlier Thursday, state police said they had no sign of the girl's whereabouts, but were determined to work until she was located.

"It won't end until we find Shaylyn," said Sgt. Durnil.

Over 60 members of law enforcement were involved in the search for Shaylyn, who disappeared from her home sometime Tuesday night. She was reported missing Wednesday morning.

"She's been missing for over 24 hours. We're worried. It's not something that we think is good right now, but there is hope," said Sgt. Durnil.

Investigators spoke to up to 10 persons of interest, talking to those people about "where they went, where they are telling us where they went, where their car was parked."

Sgt. Durnil explained that an Amber Alert had not been issued because the case didn't meet the criteria. An Amber Alert requires information either about a suspect or suspect vehicle - in this case, investigators have neither. Police don't know how Shaylyn left the house.

Police from all over Owen County and beyond searched the area.

"A child is missing and the house that the child is missing from is right over the hill from the White River," Sgt. Durnil said.

Ammerman has blond hair, blue eyes and just learned how to walk.

"I want to be out there, not just sitting here," said Jessica Stewart, the girl's mother.

Police searched the house again for clues. They also examined cell phones, computers and other electronic devices. Several persons of interest have undergone polygraph examinations. Shaylyn's father Justin Ammerman and his brother were among them, according to Ammerman's mother (and Shaylyn's grandmother) Tamera Morgan.

"I don't know why. He has nothing to do with her disappearance other than he is the father. He put her to sleep like anyone else would," said Morgan.

But Jessica Stewart believed Ammerman knew more than he was telling police.

"I don't know if he had anything to do with it but I think he knows something at the very least that he is afraid to say," said Stewart.

Sgt. Durnil said no arrests had been made in the case by early Thursday evening, although people who were interviewed Wednesday were interviewed again Thursday.

"Fields, roadways, gravel roads, ditches, rivers, bridges, culverts, trees, muddy waters - every aspect of Owen County we're gonna be covering today," said Owen County Sheriff Sam Hobbs earlier Thursday. "We're not going to quit. This is going to be a non-stop search until we recover the child."

According to police and her family, she was put to bed Tuesday night and discovered missing Wednesday morning. 

Police immediately searched the neighborhood.

The Owen County sheriff vowed they would search all until dark and if necessary resume the search Friday.

Several officers had been inside the house. They said there were no signs of a break-in .

RELATED: Police in Spencer looking for missing toddler

Shaylyn's grandmother and father were the last to see her around midnight Tuesday. She'd been staying at their home on West Jefferson Street in Spencer, part of a week on-week off custody arrangement with Stewart. 

"I put her to bed around 10:00 or 10:30 and I checked on her at midnight before I went to bed," said Morgan. "She was laying in her bed sound asleep and then we went to bed and we woke up and she was gone."

Sgt. Leonard Sam Hobbs with the Owen County Sheriff's Department thanked the community for its support in the search for Shaylyn.

“I’ve got children," he said. "I’ve got grandchildren. Everybody’s got children. Anytime you lose a child, it hurts. It hurts us all."

Hobbs continued:

“The thing that holds me together is knowing that the little girl is safe with God now, and the biggest asset this community has for one another, and I’ve seen it many, many times, and I’m sure I’ll see it again before the good Lord calls me home, is the prayers that come out from this community and surrounding communities. That’s our strength is our faith. We’re a faith-based community. We’re a faith-based department, and we’ll hold to our faith.”

Sgt. Durnil reminded the public that this case is far from over.

"Please don’t feel like because we found a body and that we’ve made an arrest that this case is anywhere near over," Durnil said. "This case is just getting started with more interviews, with more investigative tactics, with everything that we have at our disposal we will use to bring those responsible for this little girl’s death to justice.”

Supt. Doug Carter with the Indiana State Police echoed Durnil's statement.

"There are a lot more long days, and lots of hours coming to this in order to help this community heal," Carter said. "If there is anyone out there that has any information about this, we ask that you please, please come forward, because we won’t stop until we’ve talked to every single person that we can possibly talk to.” 

ANYONE with any information about this case is urged to call the Indiana State Police at the Bloomington Post at (812) 332-4411.