News
Munn sentencing set for July w24

By David Fenker
david@nmpaper.com

Mikayla Munn, a former Manchester University student charged in connection with the death of her infant child, will be sentenced Tuesday, July 24.


The sentencing hearing date change is the result of a June 27 hearing, in which Wabash County Circuit Court Judge Robert McCallen III accepted Munn's guilty plea and reset the sentencing hearing date.


Munn pleaded guilty to one count of neglect of a dependent as a level three felony Monday, June 4. She originally faced charges of murder and neglect of a dependent as a level one felony.


According to the plea agreement, Munn waived her right to appeal the court's decision regarding her sentence, and faces a maximum sentence of 16 years and a fine of up to $10,000.


During the June 27 hearing, Wabash County Prosecutor William Hartley Jr. said that, in his 20 years as a prosecutor, Munn's case ranked among the top three toughest that he handled, “for a variety of reasons.”


He shared how, in May 2016, North Manchester Police Department's Jon Pace and former Wabash County Coroner Carol Whitesel arrived at his office, unannounced, and told him of a case of a deceased newborn found in a Manchester University dormitory bathtub with its mother, Munn.


“All departments know that, in the case of a … suspicious death, they are to notify me,” Hartley said. “That didn't happen.
“By the time I was involved, the dormitory had already been turned back over to the university and cleaned.”


Hartley said that he had a conversation with former NMPD Chief Jeff Perry regarding the lack of communication. The prosecutor then involved Indiana State Police with the investigation, which resulted in the murder and neglect charges.


“To prove neglect [as a level one felony], you have to prove that the child was alive,” Hartley said.


Due to the circumstances of the infant's death, there was no way to verify that it was, in fact, alive.


Hartley described the plea agreement as a strategic decision by which the state could get justice in the case without the risk of a sympathetic jury not approving of the murder charge and finding that the state could not prove the neglect as a level one felony charge.


“We felt that we had substantial evidence,” Hartley said, “but we're trying to balance [the risk of success with the risk of failure].”


Additionally, Hartley noted that the infant's father did not want the murder charge against Munn.


“We either would have had a home run, or we would have struck out at a trial,” he said. “We felt like the lesser charge … was the right thing for justice.”


Daniel Vanderpool, Munn's attorney, also said during the hearing that the case ranked among the toughest in his career.


Regarding the state's case against Munn, Vanderpool said that the state's doctor used a discredited test that led to the belief that the infant had breathed before dying, and that his forensic doctor said that there was no way to tell for sure.


“It was a difficult case for both sides,” he said.


Vanderpool noted that Munn accepted responsibility for the infant's death, and that her psychological profile lent credibility to her claims of not knowing that she was pregnant.


“Given her mental makeup, it would not be unusual for her to be in denial,” he said. “When she was forced to reckon with what actually happened, forced to give birth... she got into that tub, had the child and fainted.”


Regarding the plea agreement, Vanderpool agreed with Hartley.


“The state had much to lose; my client had much to lose,” he said. “[The plea agreement] is a just and fair way to resolve this case.”


McCallen said that he tends to rely on prosecuting and defense attorneys in plea agreements, noting that they know the cases well.
 

Posted on 2018 Jul 03