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Missing 11-month-old found dead in wooded area in northern Indiana; 3 charged in connection

Parents, relative charged with neglect of a child
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Posted at 7:30 AM, Aug 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-20 08:30:44-04

PLYMOUTH — The body of an 11-month-old girl was found in a wooded area of a northern Indiana county after the baby was reported missing Monday morning, according to authorities.

The man believed to be connected to Mercedes Lain's disappearance, Justin Miller, was found at a residence in Starke County where he eventually led officials to Mercedes' body in a "densely forested" area near the Starke County and Marshall County line on Wednesday night, police confirmed at a press conference on Thursday morning at the Plymouth Police Department.

Authorities stated Mercedes's time of death appears to have occurred on Saturday. Autopsy results are still pending at this time.

Miller is facing a level one felony charge of neglect of a dependent resulting in death. A level one felony is punishable by up to 40 years in prison.

Lain's parents, Tiffany Coburn and Kenneth Lain, of Plymouth, have been arrested and are facing a level six felony charge for the neglect of a dependent. A level six felony is punishable by up to two and a half years.

Miller, Kenneth, and Coburn's initial court hearing is could be as soon as Friday.

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Mercedes Lain (left) Justin Lee Miller (right)

Baby Mercedes disappearance

A Silver Alert was declared Sunday night for Mercedes.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Coburn and Kenneth had left the 11-month-old with Miller, a relative, on Friday, Aug. 13 so the two "could have a break."

When it was time to bring Mercedes back to her parents on Sunday to the Economy Inn in Plymouth, located in the 2500 block of North Michigan Road, Miller allegedly told the two that he left the baby with a neighbor because they weren't home.

No one saw Mercedes again after that.

On Monday, Miller was brought into PPD where he, according to the affidavit, changed his story many times. At one point, he said he brought Mercedes to Koontz Lake while he babysat her, and then another time he said he brought her to his girlfriend's house in Mishawaka.

It had been difficult to locate Mercedes' parents during her disappearance, according to authorities.

Police finally located Coburn at the Economy Inn later Monday morning. When they brought her into the station for questioning, investigators discovered that Coburn had been in contact with Miller during the time of her daughter's disappearance about marijuana. They also learned that she frequently uses methamphetamine.

Mercedes' father, Kenneth, was located at the Red Rock Inn under the influence late Monday evening. He was transported to the March County Jail where police learned he too had been in contact with Miller about drugs during the time of his daughter's disappearance.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation out of Indianapolis, the Child Abduction Rapid Deployment (CARD) team, and other departments out of northern Indiana assisted Plymouth police with this investigation.

Plymouth Police Chief David Bacon said during Thursday's press conference that he appreciates everybody's patience while they work the case.

"The community's been very helpful, which is what we look for; we need that corporation," Plymouth Police Chief David Bacon said during Thursday's press conference. "We've had an outpouring of support to find Mercedes. The outside agencies have been tremendous. I can't say enough about what they've done. My employees, my officers, my lead detective Ben McIntyre. He started