Washington County Prosecuting Attorney Dustin Houchin has amended the charges for a 30-year-old Pekin woman to include Murder and Aggravated Battery in the death of Misty Ann McDowell, the 2-year-old daughter of her boyfriend late Monday night.
Misty’s obituary notice can be found here – http://wslmradio.com/2021/09/15/misty-mcdowell-2-years-old-of-pekin/
Sarah M. Bierly was arrested and is still incarcerated at the Washington County Detention Center, awaiting her first court appearance, scheduled for 8:30a Thursday morning in Washington Circuit Court.
Bierly was initially charged with Neglect of a Dependent Causing Death, a Level 1 Felony.
After the autopsy was completed by Washington County Coroner Peg Schell this afternoon and Forensic Pathologist Dr. James M. Jacobi, police amended the charges to include murder and aggravated battery.
Jacobi recorded the manner of death to be homicide due to “multiple blunt force injuries.”
On Wednesday, ISP detective Travis Baker met again with Washington County Prosecutor Dustin Houchin concerning the case.
As a result of the investigation and findings in the case, the Washington County Prosecutor has added the following charges in the arrest of Sarah Bierly:
- Murder – Felony
- Aggravated Battery resulting in Death – Level 1 Felony
Bierly is also charged with the original crime of Neglect of a Dependent causing Death, a level 1 Felony.
“This case will require our best,” said Houchin. “Thankfully, our office has the experience, training, and determination necessary to meet this moment. We will see that justice is served in this case.”
Bierly doesn’t have counsel at this time and Houchin has filed a motion to hold Bierly without bail.
Police were called to 411 East Poplar Street in Pekin at 11:59p on Sept. 13 after a report was phoned in regarding an unresponsive child.
Misty was pronounced dead at St. Vincent Hospital.
The following information has been taken from the police report and probable cause affidavit filed with the court by Detective Baker.
Washington County Sheriff Brent Miller and Detective Brad Naugle were at the scene when Baker arrived.
Miller and Naugle explained that McDowell was living at the residence with her father, Simon A. McDowell, and his girlfriend, Bierly.
During the evening’s investigation, Naugle said he had received a call from Coroner Shell who was concerned about marks and bruises found on the girl’s body.
Police also confirmed that it was Debbie L. Hein, a family member of Bierly’s, who actually made the 911 call.
ISP Detective Matt Busick, Baker accompanied Mr. McDowell, Bierly, and Hein to the sheriff’s department for questioning.
According to police all three parties voluntarily agreed to speak with police.
SARAH M. BIERLY
Bierly told police she had lived with Simon McDowell for three months and that Misty had been living with them for about a month, on a trial basis and was placed there by the Indiana Department of Children’s Services.
Bierly said Simon left for work at approximately 1:30p on Monday and she was asked to take care of Misty while he was gone.
Police said Bierly told them she often cared for the girl while Simon was at work.
Bierly told police that Misty was “difficult to look after” because she wouldn’t do what she was told.
Bierly told police that at approximately 9p, she was changing Misty’s diaper and getting her ready for bed.
At some point, Misty hit the right side of her face on a plastic storage container and continued to resist going to bed.
Bierly told police she “back-handed” the child across the right side of the face because she had scratched Bierly on the face.
Bierly told police Misty was sitting on the floor and “threw herself back” on the floor, hitting the back of her head on the carpeted floor.
Bierly told police Misty appeared to be unconscious but breathing at this point.
Police said Bierly noted that she listened to Misty’s heart and it was “fluttering a little” and she picked her up and put her to bed, and walked away.
Bierly told police she came back in about five minutes later to check on Misty and found her lips were blue and that she appeared “to be barely breathing.”
Bierly told police she called Simon and told him what happened and he informed her he was on his way home and only about five minutes away.
Bierly told police she called multiple people but did not call 911.
SIMON A. MCDOWELL
Police next questioned Misty’s father, who told police he spoke to Bierly at about 9:30p and that Misty had been throwing a fit.
He also told police that Bierly explained to him that his daughter had been sitting on the floor and then threw herself backward and hit her head on the bedroom floor.
Simon told police that Bierly told him that Misty was ok after she had performed CPR on her.
He said he got home at approximately 11:30p and went to check on Misty and found her unresponsive.
Simon told police he panicked and didn’t know what to do.
He told police he made multiple calls before calling Bierly’s aunt, Debbie Hein.
Simon said that after 15-20 minutes Hein arrived and called 911.
After talking with McDowell, police once again spoke with Bierly and read her the Advice of Rights, which she voluntarily signed.
Detective Baker said he advised Bierly she was being arrested and charged with Neglect and she told police she understood and agreed to speak to them further.
Bierly told police she did not call 911 because she was afraid “Simon would be mad” at her.
Police said she also told them she didn’t want her or Simon to get into trouble by calling 911.
Bierly said she told police she felt that calling the police would further complicate their custodial situation with Misty.
After the autopsy was performed this afternoon, Naugle and Baker met with Bierly at approximately 4:51p today and read her the Advice of Rights again and had her sign this, which she voluntarily did.
She said she was willing to speak to the police.
Bierly told police that she had been in the kitchen with Misty on Monday night and had picked her up by the hips and held her up in front of her.
At that time, Bierly said Misty scratched her on the face and Bierly told police she threw her down on the “hard kitchen floor.”
Bierly told police that Misty appeared to be unconscious and urinated on herself while laying on the floor.
Bierly told police she then picked Misty up, placed her in bed, changed her diaper, and performed CPR.
She told the police again that she did not call 911.
Bierly will appear in Washington Circuit Court on her first appearance Thursday, Sept. 16 at 8:30a before Judge Larry Medlock.
There has been a funeral fund set up for Misty at First Harrison Bank.