PLYMOUTH — The parents of a Plymouth toddler, who was murdered by her babysitter, pleaded guilty to child neglect charges after admitting Thursday to exposing their daughter to drugs.
Kenneth Lain and Tiffany Coburn entered plea agreements in Marshall County just two days after Justin Miller was sentenced to 65 years in prison for killing 11-month-old Mercedes Lain in August.
Prosecutors say Lain and Coburn gave Mercedes to Miller so they "could have a break" from taking care of her for a while. The criminal charges also stem from the pair allegedly using drugs in the motel room where they lived with Mercedes, creating a harmful environment for the baby.
What the plea deal means
With Lain and Coburn pleading guilty to child neglect charges, the pair could be sentenced to as much as two and a half years in prison by Marshall Superior Court Judge Matthew Sarber.
In exchange for Lain pleading guilty, prosecutors agreed to not file a habitual offender sentencing enhancement which could have added between two and six years to his sentence. The deal does not specify any terms beyond that, allowing Sarber to determine the sentence after he hears testimony from both parties at a hearing next month.
Lain was previously convicted of child neglect for allowing a man to sexually abuse another of his daughters in 2016.
Coburn also intends to plead guilty and Sarber indicated the terms of her agreement are similar to Lain's.
Mercedes Lain killed in August
Mercedes' parents met Miller at a motel in Plymouth on Aug. 12 and gave the infant to him to babysit, court documents say. In court Thursday, Lain admitted to using drugs the day he gave his daughter to Miller and that Mercedes was likely exposed to drugs and drug paraphernalia.
Lain also said he was aware Miller had prior felony convictions for drug use.
Lain was initially in contact with Miller via text, but Miller stopped responding on Aug. 14. The next day, Lain contacted Plymouth police to file a missing person report for his daughter, court documents say. A Silver Alert was issued that night and the search for Mercedes began, with officers from multiple agencies in Marshall County and the FBI getting involved.
Miller eventually admitted to hitting Mercedes in the early morning hours of Aug. 14 at an apartment in Mishawaka. She eventually died from extensive injuries sustained as a result of the beating.
Miller then drove Mercedes' body to a wooded area in Starke County and buried her. He pleaded guilty to the murder and was sentenced to 65 years in prison on Tuesday.
Email Marek Mazurek at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @marek_mazurek
This article originally appeared on South Bend Tribune: Mercedes Lain's parents plead guilty to neglect in toddler's death