INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A jury has found a father not guilty of murdering his newborn daughter, but he was found guilty of neglect of a dependent resulting in death. The verdict came down Wednesday evening.
Jeff Fairbanks was charged with murder after his 3-month-old daughter Janna Rivera disappeared in 2015. The “baby Janna” case prompted a massive search effort across the Indianapolis area.
In an exclusive interview with FOX59, Fairbanks admitted he found his daughter dead and panicked. Fairbanks also confessed that he wrapped Janna in a blanket before driving around for hours and eventually putting her body in a dumpster.
That was before he was charged with murder. He later changed his tune.
Court documents show that Fairbanks sometimes covered Janna’s face with a pillow to stop her from crying. On one of those instances, on May 28, 2015, the baby reportedly died in his bed.
Investigators spent months searching landfills and eventually recovered a blanket, but never recovered Janna's body. Without a body, legal experts say it was impossible to scientifically prove how baby Janna died, making it hard to prove murder.
"We are sympathetic to the family they did lose a loved one our client lost that same loved one and nothing that has happened in the case is going to change how he feels about his daughter," Fairbanks' attorney Todd Sallee.
It took the jury less than two hours to reach its verdict Wednesday.
"We're all very disappointed we didn't believe the state had proved its case and we were confident after the trial that we would get a verdict of not guilty on both counts," Sallee said.
Sallee said after sentencing, he believes they'll appeal.
Prosecutors said they're satisfied with the verdict, as is Janna's family.
"I think that they are happy that it's over and they are satisfied with the conviction," Teresa Hall, a deputy prosecutor, said.
Fairbanks faces 20-40 years behind bars. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for next month.