INDIANAPOLIS — A claim that officers with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department had no right to enter the apartment of 10-year-old Nakota Kelly’s father has been denied.
Attorneys for Anthony Dibiah filed a motion asking a Marion County judge to prevent evidence found by officers from being presented. They argued the officers had no justification to enter without a warrant.
According to IMPD, officers were dispatched on July 19, 2020, around 11:45 a.m. for a welfare check of a child at an apartment in the 6000 block of West Lake South Drive.
The welfare check happened after authorities received two phone calls where callers claimed that Dibiah had murdered his son.
In his decision issued Friday, Marion Superior Magistrate Judge James Snyder said police did not violate Dibiah’s rights.
Snyder wrote that when police were unable to confirm or refute the original information, officers were left “with two separate, identified callers who had no knowledge of the other, stating that a child had been murdered.”
“This entry was intended to save a potential child fatality and was objectively reasonable for that limited purpose, given the information known to officers at the time of entry,” Snyder stated. “Therefore, exigent circumstances existed to enter the apartment and did not violate the Fourth Amendment.”
His decision further states that officers were in the apartment only for two to three minutes, before backing out and contacting a detective, then later obtaining a search warrant.
During those few minutes, officers searched only in areas where a 10-year-old child could be located.
In response to the limited scope of that initial search, the judge said, “Had officers here chosen to root
through areas where a child could not have been found – for instance, drawers or cabinets – the degree of intrusion would be much higher.”
Here, officers used a key to enter the apartment after knocking numerous times; were present inside for 2-3Marion Superior Magistrate Judge James Snyder
minutes, long enough to search each room in areas where a child could be located; immediately exited and obtained a warrant upon confirming no child was located; and were searching an apartment that had seemingly been abandoned by Defendant.
When officers went to the location, they didn’t find Dibiah or the boy. They did, however, find a crime scene and enough evidence to convince them that Nakota was dead.
According to the probable cause affidavit filed in the case, investigators found what appeared to be “blood spatter, blood smears and brain matter” in the apartment’s bathroom. There was also a small amount of blood in the apartment’s entrance.
“Finally, extent of law enforcement needs is high. Two separate calls about a murdered child justifies an extremely limited search of premises where officers reasonably believe the location to be the location of the death, where the father of that child has abandoned the premises and fled the area,” Snyder wrote in his decision.
Dibiah was eventually located in Missouri and then charged with murder on July 20, 2020.
Police claim Dibiah confessed to suffocating his son to death inside his apartment before disposing of the child’s body.
A jury trial against Dibiah is scheduled for September.
Hayley Kelly, the mother of Nakota, has filed a lawsuit against the Indiana Department of Child Services. She believes DCS failed to take claims that Nakota made about his father seriously.
Court records claim the 10-year-old boy predicted he would be killed by his father if he went to visit him at his apartment building.
During the investigation a detective spoke to a DCS worker managing Nakota’s case. The case worker said the boy’s mother reported a “concerning statement” her son had made on July 14, 2020. Nakota asked her if he was going to his father’s house that weekend; when she told him he was going to see his father, the boy said, “Oh, I’m dead. Don’t expect me to come home.”
When his mother asked him what he meant, Nakota said, “My dad is going to kill me,” and said his father was angry with him because Nakota had hung up on him during a phone call when he “did not want to speak to him.”
Nakota was on a court-ordered visitation weekend with his father.
Despite extensive search efforts in the summer of 2020, the boy’s body was never recovered and a funeral has never been held.