Indiana Daily Student

Stuck: Dakota King remains in jail one year after plea agreement for murder charge

In 2019, Dakota King, 22, was charged with murdering a 2-month old child. If convicted, he would have faced up to life in prison.

One year ago, he struck a plea deal – he would be able to serve the rest of his reduced sentence in house arrest.

Today, he is still in the Monroe County Jail, looking for a place to live.

King’s plea deal was contingent upon him finding a Monroe-County residence — a house, an apartment, anything — to serve home detention. Until he finds one that Monroe County Community Corrections, which is in charge of supervising criminal offenders in the area, approves and that a landlord or homeowner agrees to let him stay in, he is stuck.

He doesn’t have family that lives in Monroe County. He can’t really build up an income behind bars. He has to get permission to leave the jail to look for places, which he has done three times. And then there’s his criminal charges. Those have been enough to deter many landlords that normally help to house people down on their luck. 

Meanwhile, about two months ago, a petition with about 145 signatures was submitted to the court, asking them to re-evaluate King’s plea agreement. Two of these names, added electronically on March 3, 2022, are the mother of the 2-month-old, Anastasia Mosher, and her mother, Adrienne Mosher.

“The following people do not believe that a 9-year sentence of house arrest is sufficient for the murder of 2-month-old baby, Braylon,” the document says above the signatures. 

“The residents believe that Dakota King is a danger to society and wish his plea agreement/sentence for his crime be reevaluated.”

King had a sentencing hearing April 18. He and his defense attorney, Phyllis Emerick, once again showed up without an approved place on hand.

The hearing was about one minute long.

After speaking with the prosecutor in the hallway, Emerick asked if they could reschedule the hearing for the eighth time to give them at least 30 more days to find a place. The prosecuting attorney said she was fine with it, no objections.

The next sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 16. It will be King’s ninth planned sentencing hearing.

****

On July 30, 2019, King spent the afternoon with his girlfriend’s baby, Braylon Elijah Lee Mosher. When his girlfriend, Anastasia Mosher, picked her child out of his bassinet later that night he was purple and in distress.

King had watched Braylon while Mosher was at work. According to a police report, when Mosher arrived home from work that day, she found her child laying on his stomach in his bassinet with a blue blanket over his head. She said her child had appeared to be sleeping. But when she picked him up an hour later she knew something was wrong.

Mosher asked a neighbor to drive them to the hospital. That neighbor later told the police the child looked already dead. He said King continued to rock the child at the hospital and heard King say he didn’t deserve to live.

 “They’re gonna find something,” the neighbor said he heard King say.

Later, a Bloomington Police officer visited Mosher’s home, looked in the bassinet and saw a blue blanket, a sleeping pillow and a small stain where the child’s mouth would have been.

According to the police report, when an officer interviewed King he, “admitted to placing his hands on the back of Victim #1’s head, and held him down. He acknowledged that Victim #1 was crying and, upon pushing his head into the pillow, that Victim #1 quit crying.”

The autopsy said the cause of death was consistent with asphyxiation. “Head held face down resulting in suffocation,” is written in the box describing how the baby was injured.

King was arrested and charged with murder, battery resulting in death of a person under 14 years old and two counts of neglect of a dependent resulting in serious bodily injury.

The state filed a notice of intent to seek life in prison without parole. However, the case never reached trial.

On April 27, 2021, a plea deal was struck in which King pleaded guilty to neglect of a dependent resulting in bodily injury that was punishable by up to 16 years in jail. As a result, his other initial charges were dropped and he was given credit for time he has spent in jail. He was also told he could serve the rest of his time on house arrest — if he could find a place.

*****

The day before King’s fifth scheduled sentencing hearing on Jan. 27, Emerick enlisted the help of local unhoused advocate Katie Norris, who has years of experience in finding transitional and permanent housing for people who are unhoused.

It had been about nine months of searching with no luck. King had even been granted three special releases to look at residences and be interviewed for Oxford House, a non-profit organization that provides housing and help for individuals addicted to alcohol and drugs. But nothing had stuck. So Emerick turned to Norris.

That next day Norris found a place for King — a room in the private home of a Bloomington woman who had opened two of her three bedrooms to those down on their luck.

“I immediately started crying,” Norris said.

She didn’t expect anyone to say yes, much less to not ask any follow-up questions. Norris herself had been extremely hesitant to help King. Jan. 26 was not the first time Emerick had reached out asking for Norris’s expertise. 

Norris had firmly rejected Emerick’s request multiple times because she continued to remember a Herald-Times article published about King, which had cited the police report alleging he had admitted to killing a baby.

Norris had even denied him from Robin & Trisha’s House, a men’s transitional housing facility she runs, in 2021. She said she had the other men to think about. If they found out what King had been charged with, King would be in danger and the other men would be at risk of getting a criminal charge themselves.

But she changed her mind about helping King after listening to Emerick’s pleas and reading the deposition of Mosher, the child’s mother. After reading the more than 100-page document, Norris was convinced that the baby had not been murdered but had died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, which is the unexplained death of an infant that usually occurs during sleep​​.

Norris said this was based on the fact that the deposition mentioned a pillow being in the baby’s bassinet. This pillow was also mentioned in the Bloomington Police report. According to the FDA, pillows are not safe for babies because they can increase the risk of suffocation and SIDS. They should sleep on a flat surface free of any other items.

Emerick also told Norris that King had not admitted to the murder. She produced no documents to prove her claim, but based on the deposition, Norris believed her.

It had taken multiple pleas and a detailed interview, which Norris spent almost a whole day reading and re-reading, to convince her to help King. Even then, Norris didn’t want to speak to him directly or be in the same room as him.

Norris said the hardest part about trying to house people is getting them accepted by landlords. Many people who are unhoused are not eligible for certain locations based on application alone because they have charges against them or a history of eviction. So, people like Norris become extra important.

“The landlords kind of take people based on us,” Norris said, referring to herself and other workers.

Norris said this is especially important for those seeking housing for home detention. 

People can be granted home detention but that doesn’t guarantee them a place to live. When someone is behind bars, they can’t earn money. They can’t make connections. They themselves can’t actually visit properties, unless granted a special limited release. Sometimes, they don’t have family to help them or money to pay someone to do so.

They need an advocate. That’s why Norris decided to take King’s case.

“If they have been approved for home detention and they are still in jail, the only reason that person is in jail is because they are homeless,” Norris said. “To me, that is awful.”

However, King’s initial charges and the lack of information released about the case, with the exception of a police report which says he admitted to murder, are a bigger factor now. Norris knew this.

On Jan. 27, she called an emergency Hotels for Homeless board meeting and asked them who she should reach out to, what she should do. She also thought about people she shouldn’t reach out to, ones she knew would be an immediate “no” and whom she wanted to keep a relationship with.

She ended up calling two people – a landlord and a homeowner.

The first man she talked to for about 20 minutes, explaining the situation and asking him to just give King a chance. But he doesn’t accept people with charges regarding violence against the elderly or children, or “defenseless people,” Norris said. He had to consider his residents, everyone’s safety and his reputation. The answer was no.

Norris had expected this. She almost respected it. She herself didn’t want to be fully associated with King.

The second person, the Bloomington woman with the available room, said yes, with no questions asked. So, Norris stopped the search.

She told Emerick about the place and Monroe County Community Corrections checked it out. Community Corrections has now denied the application twice.

Linda Brady, chief probation officer at Community Corrections, said to be approved for home detention, a residence must have electricity to charge their monitor and the people on the lease must be okay with Community Corrections field officers coming in unannounced, whenever they see fit. The environment must also be safe for the person serving house arrest and the officer.

While these qualifications don’t change, sometimes the officers have to consider different elements based on the defendant’s conviction, background and the other people living there. If the defendant is a sex offender, officers look at how close the house is to schools and parks. If the residence is a group home where a co-defendant also lives, they will most likely deny the place in their recommendation to the judge.

However, with King’s specific conviction of neglect of a dependent resulting in serious bodily injury, there are no special requirements, Brady said.

“Just that offense by itself is nothing special,” Brady said. “I’m guessing there’s more to the story.”

Brady said it is also possible for an officer to deny a location based on their personal judgment.

Norris and the woman who had offered a room to King don’t know why the place was denied because Community Corrections does not have to inform them.

So, the one lead is practically dead.

It’s been more than a year.

Norris said based on Mosher’s deposition and regardless of the petition, she still is willing to help King find a place, if Emerick ever reaches back out for help.

But now it’s back to the hardest step.

Many people are still not convinced of his innocence on the murder charge, as evidenced by the petition submitted to the court with the baby’s mom and grandma listed. King won’t likely see many landlords change their minds, especially when depositions and evidence — which could further prove either King’s guilt or innocence — aren’t available to view.

For now, King serves his reduced sentence in the Monroe County Jail, waiting from month to month to be brought into court only to be sent right back, with some people on the outside wanting to get him out and the baby’s family advocating for him to spend more time behind bars.

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