Man Now Charged With Murder In Death Of Missing Plymouth 11-Month-Old Mercedes Lain
Justin Miller, the man who was babysitting 11-month-old Plymouth baby Mercedes Lain when she was reported missing earlier this month, has now been charged with murder.
The additional charge was filed against Miller on Monday in Starke County. He was previously charged in Marshall County with level one felony child neglect resulting in death.
Miller was babysitting Mercedes when she was reported missing August 15. He was found at a Starke County residence at 3:30 a.m. the next day without her and taken into custody.
According to court documents, Miller changed his story several times but eventually said he was sleeping at a house in Mishawaka on Aug. 14 and woke up to find the 11-month-old dead.
The 37-year-old then led authorities to her body, which was found in a heavily wooded area in Starke County Aug. 18.
He was charged with a level one felony child neglect resulting in death, which carries a sentence of 20 to 40 years in prison.
But an autopsy report subsequently found that Mercedes was killed by blunt force trauma to the head and ruled her death a homicide.
If convicted of murder, Miller would face 45 years to life in prison.
Because the alleged crime took place over three counties — St. Joseph, Marshall and Starke — it is unclear where he will ultimately stand trial. Last week, his attorney filed a motion to transfer the felony child neglect charge out of Marshall County. A hearing is set for Sept. 9.
Mercedes’ parents Tiffany Coburn and Kenneth Lain told police that he had agreed to watch her for a few days so they could have a break, but that he did not return.
They were also arrested and have been charged with level six felony child neglect which carries a sentence of up to two and a half years in jail.
According to court documents, Coburn admitted to using methamphetamine and Lain was “found under the influence of an unknown substance” when he was arrested.
According to Starke County court records, Lain pled guilty to child neglect in 2016 for allowing a 20-year-old man to sexually abuse his 12-year-old daughter, who later gave birth to a child fathered by the man.
Miller told police during an interview that he spoke to Lain on Aug. 12 about purchasing some synthetic marijuana, and that they also discussed the rough time the couple was having with Mercedes.
Miller said he then offered to watch the baby for a few days and admitted to using synthetic marijuana in her presence.
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