PLYMOUTH, Ind. — An 11-month-old northern Indiana girl who had been reported missing was found dead in a wooded area after a man who had agreed to babysit the toddler for a few days led authorities to her body, a prosecutor said Thursday.
Marshall County Prosecutor Nelson Chipman Jr. said that man, Justin Miller, 37, would be formally charged Thursday with neglect of a dependent resulting in death. His initial hearing is expected Friday.
Chipman said Mercedes Lain's body was found after 9 p.m. Wednesday in a densely wooded area of Starke County near the Marshall County line after Miller led officers to the site.
"It's a tragedy," Chipman said, adding that officers who had searched for the Plymouth girl had hoped she would be found alive.
Our sincerest thank you to everyone who helped in the search for 11 month old Mercedes Lain, or called in tips. Sadly, she was found deceased in a wooded area in Starke County last night.
An autopsy had not been performed on the child's body as of Thursday morning, he said.
Chipman said the girl's father, Kenny Lain, left Mercedes with Miller on Friday at a Plymouth motel to babysit for the weekend so he and the girl's mother, Tiffany Coburn, could have "a few days break from their child."
But after Miller did not bring the toddler back as planned on Sunday her parents reported her missing to police, he said.
According to a probable cause affidavit, Miller told police Wednesday that he woke up on Saturday at a residence in Mishawaka, a St. Joseph County city just east of South Bend, and found the child dead. He told police he then moved her body to the wooded area in adjacent Starke County.
The family of #missing 11 month old Mercedes Lain is asking for your help to find her:
"We're just asking if anybody knows anything, or if you have her to please, please bring her home or take her somewhere where she can be brought home, please."
Miller, who the affidavit describes as a relative of the parents, told officers he had used synthetic marijuana several times during the time he had Mercedes in his care.
Kenny Lain and Tiffany Coburn both face one count each of neglect of a dependent for allegedly giving their child to Miller to care for, Chipman said. They also are expected to appear for initial hearings on Friday, he said.
Online court documents do no list attorneys for Miller or for the girl's parents.
Authorities said the search for the girl involved FBI agents, Indiana State Police, Marshall County deputies and Plymouth police officers.
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