I-Team 8

Infant’s death brings cries to scrutinize Indiana Child Services

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Over 6,000 people have signed a petition calling for the Marshall County prosecutor to investigate the Indiana Department of Child Services and its involvement in the death of 11-month-old Mercedes Lain.

“About six years ago, my niece (Serenity Wilson) was murdered,” said Jenn Anderson, who started the petition online. “There were multiple calls to (Child Services) before (Serenity’s death) where we were concerned about her safety.”

Anderson on Tuesday told I-Team 8 the case of her niece Serenity is eerily similar to the case of Mercedes Lain. She was the subject of an Indiana Silver Alert on Aug. 15.

In Lain’s case, her parents, Tiffany Coburn and Kenneth Lain, and their babysitter, Justin Lee Miller, were arrested last week, and her pretrial conference was set for Sept. 15. Both of her parents were charged Friday with neglect of a dependent. Public defenders on Monday joined the cases for the parents, who are next due in court Sept. 15.

Last week, I-Team 8 found a history of drugs and child neglect by both of Mercedes’ parents.

Miller pleaded not guilty in his first court hearing Tuesday and was assigned a public defender. Another court hearing was set for Sept. 8.

Mercedes case was ruled a homicide as of Monday.

Anderson says community members have said calls to Child Services were made in Mercedes’ case as well.

“Somebody dropped the ball,” Anderson said, “and I feel like that I’m kind of tired, and I think everybody else is tired of (Child Services) not being held accountable for it.”

“You have people who are following the right chain of command to try to save the babies and it’s not being taken seriously. It’s sickening,” Anderson said. 

Anderson sent a letter to the Marshall County Prosecutor Nelson Chipman and asked him to investigate Child Services. The letter said in part that “another child has fallen through the cracks of the broken system.”

Chipman told I-Team 8 he has no intention of pursuing an investigation into Child Services because it’s “not in his jurisdiction.”

Anderson says she plans to send the letter to U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, a Republican from Elkhart, as the petition continues to grow.

Statement

“Every life is precious, and the needless suffering or death of any child is a tragedy. I have reached out to the Governor’s office for an update on the case and requested a briefing from the Indiana Department of Child Services on the heartbreaking death of this infant. I absolutely share Hoosiers’ concerns about the wellbeing of our children and the need to do more to protect them from danger. I will continue working with partners at all levels of our child welfare system to ensure we are fulfilling our mission to protect Hoosier kids from harm.”

U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, a Republican from Elkhart, on Aug. 25, 2021

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