PLYMOUTH, Ind. (AP) — A man charged with neglect in the death of an 11-month-old girl left in his care now faces a murder charge in the northern Indiana county where the toddler’s body was found.
Starke County prosecutors charged Justin Miller of Hamlet with murder Monday afternoon in the death of Mercedes Lain. Miller also faces felony charges in adjacent Marshall County for child neglect causing death in the toddler’s death.
According to court documents, Miller, 37, told police he woke up on Aug. 14 in the St. Joseph County city of Mishawaka and found the child dead. He led investigators on Aug. 18 to a wooded area in Starke County where he had allegedly buried the girl’s body, the South Bend Tribune reported.
An autopsy report found that Mercedes Lain’s death was a homicide and the manner of death to be blunt force trauma to the head.
Mercedes’ parents, Kenneth Lain and Tiffany Coburn, face neglect charges for leaving their daughter with Miller on Aug. 13 at a Plymouth motel so they could take a break from their child.
After Miller did not bring the toddler back as planned, her father reported her missing to police.
Miller told officers he had used synthetic marijuana several times during the time he had Mercedes in his care.
Marshall County Prosecutor Nelson Chipman said Monday that officials are waiting for the “legal dust to settle” to work out how the case will be prosecuted since the alleged crime covers three separate counties.