July 2019: Huron Man Sentenced to Prison for Death of Toddler, Man Arrested in Death of Loogootee Baby, Bloomington Man Allegedly Smothers Baby, Officer cleared in Shooting Death

(UNDATED) – During July 2019 a Huron man was sentenced to prison in the death of a toddler, a Washington man is behind bars accused of the death of a Loogootee baby and a Bloomington man allegedly smoothers infant after the baby spit up milk on him and a Salem Police officer is cleared in an officer-involved shooting.

Huron Man Sentenced to 31 Years in Death of Toddler

As part of a plea agreement, 30-year-old Jessie Phillips, of Huron, was sentenced to 31 years in prison in the September 2018 death of an 18-month-old boy.

Jessie Phillips

Superior Court II Judge William Sleva sentenced Phillips after pleading guilty to neglect of a dependent resulting in death, a Level 1 felony, and possession of meth while in possession of a firearm. He was sentenced to 30 years on the death charge and 1 year on the drug charge.

On September 15, 2018 at 8:57 a.m. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department received a 911 call regarding an unresponsive 18-month-old child at a home in the 1900 block of Old Vincennes Road.

Kendra Mihfield, the mother of the child, told the detective she was awakened by one of the two other children living in the home to tell her something was wrong with the toddler. Mihlfeld got out of bed, noticed something was wrong with her son and called 911.

Deputies from the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department, Huron Volunteer Fire Department first responders, and an AMR ambulance responded.

When police arrived they found Phillips and Mihlfeld, sitting on the front porch of the residence. Police and first responders found the child lying on a toddler mattress in a back bedroom.

Detective Phillips saw a large bruise on the center of the child’s forehead, blood coming from his mouth and large bruises around both of his knees. Officials say the child had been dead for hours.

Detectives, the coroner, and Indiana State Police crime scene experts were called to the scene to begin the death investigation.

A post-mortem examination was conducted the following day. The child died from an acute subdural hemorrhage of the brain caused by abusive head trauma. The manner of death was determined to be a homicide.

The toddler’s mother, Kendra Mihlfeld, told police she had been dating Phillips for a few months. Both were living together in the home with three children.

Mihlfeld told police the last time she saw her son was 3:30 p.m. on September 14, 2018, before she left work. Phillips told police he had put the toddler to bed at 7:30 p.m.

The next day, Phillips reportedly woke up, showered, went to buy food in Huron and returned home when Mihlfeld came outside to tell him the child was dead.

Bloomington Man Arrested for Murder of Infant

Bloomington Police officers arrested 19-year-old Dakota King, of Bloomington, for the murder of his girlfriend’s two-month-old infant.

Dakota King

King is charged with murder, neglect of a dependent resulting in death, battery w/ death to a person under 14 years old, neglect of a dependent resulting in serious bodily injury.

On August 2, 2019, the State of Indiana filed a motion of intent to seek life without parole. His jury trial is scheduled for January.  A plea of not guilty was entered in King’s behave. He is being held without bond in the Monroe County Jail.

A five-day jury trial is scheduled for March 6, 2020, at 8:30 a.m. in Monroe County Circuit Court 2

On Tuesday, July 30th, at approximately 5:31 p.m., officers responded to IU Health Bloomington Hospital Emergency Department regarding an infant. Officials say the boy died by the time officers arrived.

Emergency Department staff explained to officers that there were several inconsistencies in statements made by members of the infant’s family.

photo provided by the family

An examination of the child revealed visible injuries to the child’s face.

According to Bloomington Police Captain Ryan Pedigo, King allegedly placed the infant face-down in a bassinet and used his hand to shove the infant’s face into bedding in an attempt to get the baby to stop crying.

Police obtained a search warrant for an apartment in the 1500 block of West Kirkwood Avenue. While searching the apartment, police discovered a reddish-brown stain in the infant’s bassinet that appeared to be blood which was consistent with the injuries observed on the child’s face at the hospital.

During a police interview, King allegedly admitted to investigators that he had gotten angry earlier in the day when the child spit up milk on his clothing. King stated that he placed the infant in the bassinet. He admitted that the child was crying so he pushed the child’s head down into the pillow of the bassinet until the child stopped crying.

King then left the infant in the bassinet until the child’s mother returned home from work later in the day and discovered that the infant did not appear to be breathing.

At the conclusion of the interview, King was arrested and incarcerated in the Monroe County Jail.

According to court documents, King has an “extreme temper problem.” The infant’s grandmother told police King would pick up the baby “in an aggressive manner” and yell into his face to get him to stop crying. 

The infant’s mother told police the same, saying King got upset, grabbed the child and pushed hard on his chest. Additionally, she said she witnessed King push the baby’s face into his bed covers to get him to stop crying. 

Child Dead, Washington Man Behind Bars

In July a child died and a Washington man was arrested.

Bobby Leighty

Indiana State Police arrested 26-year-old Bobby Leighty of Washington on a charge of neglect resulting in death.

Police say on July 23, 2019, Leighty was watching one-month-old Kyson Jones of Loogootee when sometime after noon Kyson became unresponsive.

Leighty contacted family members about the baby and they arrived a short time later. Those family members called 911.

The baby was initially transported to the Daviess County Hospital and then taken to Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis via helicopter. On Friday, July 26th, Kyson was removed from life support and died.

Leighty has pleaded not guilty to the charge. He remains in the Martin County Jail on a $100,000 cash bond. A jury trial is scheduled for June 16-18, 2020 at 9 a.m.

Indiana State Police Conclude Investigate in Police-Involved Shooting in Salem

Washington County Prosecutor Dustin Houchin released his report of findings into the investigation of the police-involved shooting which occurred on July 3, 2019, in Salem.

The report reveals Salem Police Chief Joey Wheeler, fired his department-issued weapon, striking and killing Mark Naugle.

Areal photo of the area of Washington County Fairgrounds where the incident took place.

The Indiana State Police completed a thorough and independent investigation and Houchin found Chief Wheeler “acted in accordance [with his] training and in compliance with Salem Police Department standard operating procedures using deadly force in carrying out his duties as a sworn law enforcement officer”.

The report concludes by stating that Wheeler’s actions were “reasonable given the totality of the circumstances” and that the case is closed with no charges being filed in the matter.

The Shooting

On July 3, 2019, at approximately 2 p.m., the Indiana State Police (ISP) in Sellersburg were dispatched to the area of the Washington County Fairgrounds in Salem after a report of an officer-involved shooting involving Salem city police officers.

The initial evidence and investigation reveal that shortly before 2 p.m., Salem City Police arrived on fairgrounds property to investigate a suspicious person call involving a male subject. Officers eventually located 53-year-old Mark A. Naugle, of Scottsburg, standing in the creek which borders the property. During the encounter, at least one Salem police officer fired their weapon, striking and killing Naugle.