Relatives of an 11-month-old girl who was found dead earlier this week said they had raised concerns about her parents’ ability to care for her.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Mercedes Lain was found dead in a remote wooded area in Indiana earlier this week, after she had twice been reported missing; first on Thursday, by an unknown person, and then on Sunday by her father. Police said Mercedes, who reportedly lived in Plymouth, was seen on Saturday, after she was first reported missing. She was not seen alive again.
Authorities issued a Silver Alert on Sunday, stating that Mercedes may have been with a 37-year-old man, Justin Lee Miller, who the Daily Beast reports was described as a “family relative” in court filings. He was reportedly caring for Mercedes so that her parents “could have a break,” according to the Daily Beast report. The precise relationship between Miller and Mercedes remains unknown.
On Monday, police located Miller and his vehicle, but there was no sign of the baby. Miller and both Mercedes’ parents, Kenneth Lain and Tiffany Coburn, were all charged with neglect of a dependent, authorities announced on Tuesday.
On Wednesday night, investigators found Mercedes’ dead body in a wooded area in Starke County, the FBI’s Indianapolis bureau first announced in a Twitter post. Miller has since been charged with neglect of a dependent resulting in death. Police reportedly said drugs may have been involved. Mercedes’ cause and manner of death have not yet been determined, pending a completed autopsy
Mercedes’ grandmother told the Daily Beast that she and other family members had been trying to get Mercedes removed from Lain and Coburn’s home.
“We tried everything in our power to get this baby taken away from them,” Angie Owens, Mercedes’ maternal grandmother, told the Daily Beast. “We have called [child protective services] many times. There’s nothing more that we could have done than what we did. We have gone beyond our power in doing what we could to help this baby.”
“They are definitely not good parents,” Owens said of her daughter and her partner. “They didn’t need to have a child.”
The circumstances of Mercedes’ disappearance remain unclear; her parents and Miller appear to have given contradictory and convoluted stories to investigators. At one point after the child was reported missing, Coburn’s phone was turned off when she was meant to be meeting with police, the Daily Beast reports.
Police reportedly arrested Coburn Monday afternoon, hours after they located Miller at a friend’s house, at an Economy Inn. Kenneth Lain was arrested later that same day at the same Economy Inn, “under the influence of an unknown substance,” according to police records obtained by the Daily Beast.
Authorities have not indicated whether they believe Mercedes was the victim of a violent crime.