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Man charged in death of 11-month-old girl appears in court

Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 9:53 AM EDT
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MARSHALL COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) - A man charged in connection to the death of 11-month-old Mercedes Lain made an appearance in court Tuesday morning.

Justin Miller is facing one count of neglect of a dependent resulting in death after leading police to Lain’s body in Starke County last week. Initial autopsy results revealed on Monday showed that Mercedes died of blunt forced injuries to the head, and her death was ruled a homicide.

Miller entered a preliminary non-guilty plea. He has 30 days to change his plea to guilty if he chooses.

None of the charges were upgraded during today’s hearing, but they could be upgraded in the future depending on the investigation. There are events that happened in Marshall County, and events that happened in St. Joseph County leading up to Mercedes’ death, which is why Marshall County Prosecutor Nelson Chipman says any upgraded charges will be held off until investigators can connect all the dots.

Chipman also says it is for that reason why a there is a split of opinion on which county Miller should face charges in.

He says he did meet with St. Joseph County Prosecutor Ken Cotter face-to-face yesterday about this issue, and while both are still gathering information, Chipman says their goal is the same---getting justice for Mercedes.

“We’re still in the process of deciding how best to get justice for Mercedes and that would also involve where the proper place is,” Chipman says.

Bond has been set for $100,000.

A pretrial hearing has been set for Wednesday, September 8th at 9 a.m.

A status conference has been scheduled for Thursday, December 16th at 9 a.m.

The venue for the trial is still in question due to the several counties being involved in the investigation.

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