An Indiana man was recently sentenced to a maximum sentence of 55 years in state prison for a years-old murder that took place in one of the country’s most notoriously violent and haunted swamps.
Ethan Cain24, pleaded guilty to the murder of a 22-year-old man Drake Smith Last year. The incident happened in May 2018 in a part of Frances Slocum State Forest, Indiana, known as Okie Pinokie. He will serve at least 50 years behind bars.
Cain was also initially charged with robbery resulting in grievous bodily harm, obstruction of justice and misdemeanor theft. Under the terms of his plea agreement, the lower charges were dropped.
The defendant was charged with participating in a three-person conspiracy to steal Smith’s drugs and money. The defendants were also 27 years old Joshua Kean and 20 years Brittany Morris. Authorities say the end result was that all four went to the state forest, after which Cain and Kean beat Smith to death with a metal pipe after a party.
A witness allegedly told police they saw Kean and Morris begin stealing several items from Smith’s truck as Cain picked up the pipe and began punching the victim in the face, according to probable cause affidavits obtained by the newspaper. based in Kokomo, Ind., the Tribune of Kokomo. This witness allegedly later told investigators that they all left the crime scene after the murder, along with Smith’s clothes, cash, drugs, beer and a small loudspeaker.
The victim’s body was discovered shortly before 10 a.m. on May 19, 2018 by hikers hunting mushrooms.
Police say the woman was behind the plot.
Court documents cited by the Grandstand claim Morris knew Smith was allegedly on drugs the night he was killed. Police say surveillance footage from a Walmart parking lot in Marion, Indiana showed Morris getting into Smith’s truck – after leaving a car with Kean and Cain – just after midnight on May 18, 2018. In the video, according to police, Kean and Cain then entered the big box store to buy cheesecake.
After that, the footage allegedly shows Smith and Morris heading towards Okie Pinokie. Minutes later, Kean and Cain are seen heading in the same direction, investigators say.
The witness allegedly told law enforcement that they partied with Morris, Smith and others until about 2 a.m. That’s when the crowd thinned out, the witness said, and also when Kean and Cain arrived.
The witness, a woman whose name has not been released, allegedly went on to say that Cain was the first to strike – walking towards Smith and attempting to choke him from behind. Kean was first with the pipe, she allegedly struck the victim in the face.
Smith allegedly begged for his life before his murder, the witness continued, telling his attackers to take whatever they wanted.
Instead, they took it all.
“He’s dead,” said the witness, having heard one of the defendants say before leaving with the fatally beaten man’s belongings.
While driving on Indiana State Road 15, the murder weapon was allegedly thrown out the window. The pipe was later recovered by investigators near a small bridge in Grant County, Ind.
A week after the murder, Kean and Cain were spotted at a California campsite near the US-Mexico border. Cain was arrested by the California Imperial County Sheriff’s Department. While Kean initially escaped, he was arrested three days later. Morris was charged with the murder while in a juvenile detention center where she was being held for an unrelated probation violation.
Cain was sentenced last Tuesday. During the hearing, the Miami County probation officer Cathy Knight described the murder as “brutal” and a “horror spectacle”. Graphically, she described the witness as saying the sound of the pipe hitting the victim’s head sounded like “gravel crunching”.
Morris has a pre-hearing conference currently scheduled for February 10, 2022; Kean has a conference scheduled for March 24, 2022.
“We were all sentenced to life that day,” the prosecutor said Jeffrey Sinkovics said at the sentencing hearing, reading a victim impact statement written by Smith’s mother, Karrie Sheets. “It’s a void that will never go away.”
[image via Indiana State Police]
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