SPENCER, Ind. (AP) — A prosecutor’s decision on whether to seek the death penalty against a man charged with abducting and killing a 1-year-old Indiana girl will come at a time when legal experts say fewer executions are being sought in the state with the high cost and long court appeals of such cases.
Twenty-two-year-old Kyle Parker of Spencer faces charges of murder, rape and kidnapping in the death of Shaylyn Ammerman, whose body was found following two days of intensive searching after she was reported missing from her father’s home.
The allegations against Parker include several factors that qualify for the death penalty under Indiana law — including committing a murder along with child molesting, kidnapping or rape and the victim being younger than 12.
A decision on seeking the death penalty often rests on the cost and on the possibility that appeals through state and federal courts can last 15 or 20 years, said Jody Madeira, an Indiana University law professor who studies the death penalty.
“Families may want the death penalty, but then, they are tied to the crime and the defendant for a very long time,” Madeira told The (Bloomington) Herald-Times. “And some say they want him to go away forever and never hear from him again.”
Owen County Prosecutor Don VanDerMoere said after Parker’s initial hearing Monday that he might take weeks considering whether to seek the death penalty or life without parole against Parker.
“At this point, we’re not going to make an emotional decision,” he said.
Parker pleaded not guilty to the charges during Monday’s hearing. His public defender, Jacob Fish, hasn’t returned telephone messages seeking comment.
Authorities say Parker drank whiskey with the girl’s uncle and then waited until the family fell asleep inside the Spencer home before abducting the toddler in the early morning hours of March 23. According to the charging documents, Parker directed police the next day to where her body was found in a remote, wooded site outside the nearby town of Gosport, about 40 miles southwest of Indianapolis.
The average number of death penalty cases filed per year in Indiana has dropped from more than 25 to fewer than two over the past decade, said Paula Sites of the Indiana Public Defender Council.
Parker’s attorney will likely request a mental health evaluation, but use of an insanity defense requires doctors determining that the defendant wasn’t capable of knowing that what he was doing was wrong, said Jack Crawford, an Indianapolis defense attorney and former Lake County prosecutor not involved in the case.
But a detective’s probable-cause affidavit describes actions like Parker pouring bleach on the child and hiding her body.
Shaylyn’s grandmother, Tamara Morgan, called the attack “total evil torture” and said she wanted the maximum punishment.