INDIANAPOLIS – They have a timeline. They have evidence. They have eyewitness accounts.
But one thing investigators don’t have is the body of 8-month-old Amiah Robertson.
The location of the missing baby’s remains is still unknown despite years of searching and an overwhelming number of tips. The case is considered an open investigation, police and prosecutors said during a news conference Monday.
Prosecutor Ryan Mears, IMPD Chief Randal Taylor and Deputy Chief Kendale Adams spoke to reporters after a grand jury indicted Amiah’s mother, Amber Robertson, on four counts. Robertson’s ex-boyfriend, Robert Lyons, was also indicted on four counts:
- neglect of a dependent resulting in serious bodily injury (level 3 felony)
- neglect of a dependent resulting in bodily injury (level 5 felony)
- neglect of a dependent with deprivation (level 5 felony)
- neglect of a dependent (level 6 felony)
The counts accuse both of placing Amiah in a situation that “endangered [her] life or health” and deprived her of “necessary support” and “resulted in serious bodily injury.”
Police arrested Amber Robertson over the weekend. As of Monday morning, Lyons was not in custody, although police said he was working with an attorney and were hopeful he would soon turn himself in.
“He needs to be brought in and processed and held accountable for what he’s been charged with,” Deputy Chief Kendale Adams said of Lyons.
Amiah disappeared on March 9, 2019, setting off a large search across the city. Rumors about the girl’s fate have swirled for years. Robertson told police she gave the girl to Lyons, then her boyfriend, to be taken to a babysitter’s house. At one point, investigators even dug up the soil beneath the back deck of babysitter Jeanette Browning’s house.
A week passed before Robertson reported the infant missing. IMPD then said the baby’s disappearance was being investigated as a homicide.
The case will go to trial with several witnesses expected to testify, including the babysitter, Browning, being listed as a grand jury witness. The most severe neglect charge carries a maximum sentence of 16 years, the two level five felonies carry a maximum of 6 years and the level 6 charge includes a range of 6 months to 2.5 years.
Mears disclosed during Monday’s news conference that the grand jury returned two “no bills,” meaning members of the grand jury didn’t find enough probable cause to support those charges. As grand jury proceedings are confidential, Mears couldn’t disclose the nature of those charges.
A grand jury consists of six grand jurors and an alternate who resides in Marion County. They’re called in the same manner as regular jurors.
The prosecutor said the grand jury convened last week, although the prosecutor’s office and IMPD had been building toward a grand jury case as early as January. He described the investigation as a “monster” of a case with many witnesses to interview, a number of locations to search and a mountain of physical evidence to examine.
Mears characterized the grand jury as “engaged” and “attentive” during the proceedings. Due to the nature of the grand jury, he couldn’t disclose many details. He did say convening the grand jury allowed his office to compel certain individuals to testify and believes that led to more accurate accounts from witnesses.
“I think any time you get people under oath, and you bring them in to testify and they understand the consequences of not providing truthful information, certainly it has a tendency to give the fullest account of what occurred,” Mears said. “That’s always helpful when you’re interviewing witnesses or people who are potentially reluctant to cooperate.”
The investigation is far from over, according to Deputy Chief Adams. Police conducted a search linked to the case within the last week after receiving a tip. The information didn’t pan out, Adams said, but it showed IMPD was actively investigating. Searchers also probed Eagle Creek near McCarty Street where some of the child’s belongings were found.
Adams urged people to continue to come forward with information, although he conceded some tips were more helpful than others. He appealed for any “legitimate” tips and asked people to stay away from submitting various “theories” to investigators.
IMPD is chasing down every lead, the deputy chief said, adding that it’s a time-consuming process to look into each one.
While the grand jury returned a no bill on two counts, there is nothing preventing prosecutors from seeking additional charges in the case. The biggest piece missing from the puzzle: Amiah’s remains.
“To this point, we still have not found the body,” Mears said. “If we’re in a position where we are able to locate the baby, if we are able to locate that child, nothing precludes us from filing additional charges or additional information.”
Mears said the grand jury decision made it clear that if you are caring for a child, you are responsible for what happens to that child.
Robertson and Lyons had the option of telling their side of the story to the grand jury, although Mears couldn’t say if they had testified.
According to online court records, Amber Robertson is due in court Tuesday for an initial hearing. She remains in custody on a $200,000 bond.