Missing 11-month-old Mercedes Lain found dead in Starke County, investigators say

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PLYMOUTH, Ind. — An 11-month-old Indiana girl who was reported missing over the weekend was found dead in Starke County, officials said.

Mercedes Lain was the subject of a Silver Alert that was canceled Thursday morning. The girl had been placed in the care of a family friend named Justin Miller and was last seen around 12:30 a.m. Saturday in Mishawaka, according to the FBI. She was wearing a white onesie with pink trim.

The girl’s father reported her missing on Sunday, leading to the Silver Alert. Police located Miller Monday morning in Starke County; Mercedes was not with him.

Wednesday afternoon, after several interviews, Miller led officers to the location in Starke County where they found the remains in a wooded area. Investigators believe she died Saturday, according to Marshall County Prosecutor E. Nelson Chipman.

Justin Miller (left), Tiffany Coburn (center) and Kenny Lain (right)

Miller will be charged with neglect of a dependent resulting in death, authorities said. Kenny Lain and Tiffany Coburn, the girl’s parents, face neglect of a dependent charges.

Drug use may have been involved, investigators said during the Thursday morning news conference.

A cause of death has not been determined and an autopsy has been scheduled. Additional charges could be filed based on the autopsy results.

Investigators said there was no indication that the parents knew the girl’s fate when they reported her missing Sunday. They had given the girl to Miller to “take a break,” according to authorities.

Court documents described Miller as a “family relative” and said Mercedes was given to him on Aug. 14. Miller was originally set to return her Saturday; however, it was then decided that he would bring her home on Sunday.

Lain and Coburn tried numerous times to contact Miller; when they finally got a hold of him, he said he’d dropped the girl off with a neighbor. However, that turned out not to be true.

Coburn dropped a duffel bag off at a different neighbor’s house; the bag contained a safe that police believe contained “illegal narcotics.”

Mercedes’ parents reported her missing Sunday, leading to a statewide Silver Alert. Police found Miller around 3:30 a.m. on Monday at a home in Starke County. Mercedes was not with him; police said Miller told them that Kenny Lain contacted him on Aug. 12 to discuss buying synthetic marijuana. The conversation then turned to difficulties the parents were having with the little girl.

Miller said he could watch her for a few days to give them a break. Police said his recollection of the events changed several times. He later admitted to “using synthetic marijuana on numerous occasions” when he was with Mercedes. He also claimed he’d been kicked out of a home in Mishawaka and then dropped the little girl off an the Economy Inn with a family acquaintance on Sunday.

Police said they initially had trouble contacting the parents about their missing daughter. Kenny Lain and Miller had been in contact with one another through Facebook Messenger. Coburn, during an interview, admitted to using methamphetamine on “numerous occasions,” according to court documents.

When police located the girl’s father, he was “under the influence of an unknown substance,” according to court documents.

On Wednesday, Miller told police that he was at a residence in Mishawaka “on or about August 14” and woke up to find Mercedes had died. He then told investigators he disposed of her body at a Starke County property located at 1025 E. and 50 N. He eventually led officers to the scene, where they found the girl’s remains.

Investigating agencies included the FBI Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Team, Indiana State Police, the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office and the Marshall County Prosecutor’s Office.

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