SPENCER, Ind. — At about 8 p.m. Tuesday, Tamara Morgan put her 1-year-old granddaughter to sleep in her crib in the corner of the living room, just like any other night.
Several hours later, she checked on the blonde-haired, blue-eyed toddler, Shaylyn Michelle Kay Ammerman.
“She was sleeping, peacefully like she always does,” Morgan said.
But when Morgan woke up at 7:30 a.m., Shaylyn was gone.
“Nothing in the house was disturbed,” Morgan said. “No note. Nothing.”
After two days of searching for Shaylyn, investigators found a body matching her description at about 6 p.m. Thursday, Indiana State Police confirmed.
Shaylyn's cause of death was confirmed to be homicide by asphyxiation by the Owen County coroner.
The body was located on private property in a remote area near the banks of the White River, northeast of Gosport, Indiana. An autopsy has been scheduled for Friday.
Police arrested Spencer resident Kyle Parker, 22, and took him into custody on Thursday night in connection to Shaylyn’s disappearance.
Parker was one of two acquaintances at the family’s house on the 400 block of West Jefferson Street the night Shaylyn went missing, Morgan said.
Parker was watching a movie and drinking with Shaylyn’s uncle, Adam Ammerman, after Shaylyn fell asleep, Morgan said.
Officials are still investigating other persons of interest in connection to the case, ISP spokesperson Sgt. Curt Durnil said.
“This case is just getting started,” Durnil said.
By Thursday afternoon, officials had interviewed up to 10 persons of interest in connection to Shaylyn’s disappearance, Durnil said.
After Shaylyn had been gone for more than 24 hours, investigators grew “very concerned,” Durnil said.
“Somebody coming in and taking a child and completely disappearing,” Durnil said. “I can’t remember a time when this happened.”
The FBI assisted the ISP in the investigation, FBI spokesperson Wendy Osborne said.
Search-and-rescue teams used air support, sonar equipment and cadaver dogs in their search for Shaylyn’s body, Durnil said.
Heavy rain and brief lightning slowed down search teams slightly Thursday morning but did not stop them, Durnil said.
Morgan’s house on West Jefferson Street was still blocked off by officials Thursday morning. Two police cars were parked in front of the white house where Shaylyn lived every other week with her father, Justin Ammerman.
The family was told to stay out of the house while authorities investigated the scene. Morgan and Ammerman, along with Morgan’s other son, Adam Ammerman and her husband, Daniel Morgan, spent the night at Morgan’s mother’s apartment across town.
Officials picked up Justin and Adam Ammerman on Thursday and took them to Indianapolis to administer a polygraph test, Morgan said. Police also obtained and investigated their cellphones.
Huddled in the apartment, Morgan, her husband and her mother answered constant phone calls and watched the news on television, hoping to hear any new information about the search.
“It’s just frustrating,” Morgan said. “There’s nothing anybody can do besides just wait.”
On the night Shaylyn went missing, the front door was left unlocked, like usual, Morgan said.
“I grew up in this town,” Morgan said. “We sleep with our doors unlocked and windows open. You didn’t have to worry.”
In addition to Parker, Justin Ammerman’s ex-girlfriend, Kelly Rogers, appeared to have come into the home sometime after 4 a.m. Wednesday and placed some newspapers on the kitchen counter before leaving, Morgan said.
Rogers had been living at the house since she and Justin Ammerman broke up, Morgan said, but the family hadn’t seen her since Sunday.
Police confirmed Thursday that neither Parker nor Rogers had Shaylyn in their possession.
“Our hearts sank to the lowest depths you could think of,” Morgan said.
Across Owen County and the surrounding area, hundreds of friends, family members and complete strangers offered to help in the search for Shaylyn.
One of the friends who reached out to the family included Frederic Lieber, an IU professor in the Counseling & Educational Psychology department.
Lieber has known Shaylyn’s father, Justin Ammerman, for more than 20 years. They first met when Lieber began volunteering as a tutor in Justin’s fourth grade class.
“Now I’m kind of a surrogate member of the family,” Lieber said.
Lieber even had lunch with Ammerman, Morgan and Shaylyn on Tuesday. It seemed that Shaylyn had learned to walk fairly quickly, Lieber said.
She was a bright, talkative and eager little girl, Lieber said.
The next day, several of the family members called him to fill him in on the news of her disappearance.
“I ached for the family,” Lieber said. “I offered any help that I could provide.”
Feeling desperate for answers, Morgan posted fliers around Spencer Thursday morning, despite downpouring rain.
Shaylyn would dance any time music came on and cry any time Morgan left the room, Morgan said.
“She’s a grandma’s girl,” Morgan said.
Shaylyn’s mother, Jessica Mae Stewart, posted a status on Facebook at about 9 p.m. Thursday after hearing the news that a body had been found.
“My babygirl Shaylyn is gone,” Stewart wrote.
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