Oklahoma toddler found in dresser in Indiana 'suffered a horrific death,' prosecutor says

Oaklee Snow
Oaklee Snow

With her dead toddler wrapped in a blanket in the back seat, Madison Marshall and her boyfriend, Roan Waters, drove in his Dodge Durango out of Indianapolis until they arrived at a dilapidated house on a hill near Martinsville, Indiana, according to police.

From where they parked on a gravel road, Waters took Oaklee Snow’s body and entered the abandoned house through a window, Marshall told investigators. Moments later, when he returned, Snow was no longer with him.

That was Feb. 9 — just weeks before Snow's second birthday.

In late April, investigators scoured the property after Marshall allegedly confessed to her role in disposing of the toddler, and led them to the scene. Inside, they found the body of a female child in the bottom drawer of a dresser.

Her leg was broken at the knee. A blue and white sock still covered her small foot.

While the remains have not yet been officially identified, the evidence was enough to support a litany of charges filed Wednesday against Marshall and Waters, including murder and neglect of a dependent resulting in death.

More: Where is Oaklee Snow? Seminole County toddler missing after mother arrested

Charges appear to mark the end of national hunt for Snow

The criminal charges, which were announced by the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office in conjunction with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, appear to mark the end of a national search for Snow that began in Seminole County, Oklahoma, and included law enforcement in four states and the FBI.

"We were hoping for a better outcome," said Seminole County investigator J.T. Palmer, when reached over the phone Wednesday.

Waters has been charged with murder, two level one felony charges of neglect of a dependent resulting in death, a level three felony charge of neglect of a dependent resulting in serious injury, a level six felony charge of neglect of a dependent for abandoning or cruelly confining the dependent, and two level six felony charges of neglect of a dependent for placing the dependent in a dangerous situation.

Timeline: What we know about Oaklee Snow's disappearance

He's also facing a level five felony of battery resulting in injury of a victim under the age of 14.

Marshall is facing the same charges except she is not facing a murder charge or a battery charge. Instead, she has been charged with assisting a criminal, a level five felony.

The article continues below the affidavit

“As parents, we have a duty to protect our children. Not only did these two individuals fail to live up to that responsibility, but the allegations in the probable cause affidavit indicate that Snow suffered a horrific death and an abandonment that diminished the dignity that any child deserves,” Marion County prosecutor Ryan Mears said Wednesday in a prepared statement.

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Chief Randal Taylor said in a statement the case was "one of the most challenging types of cases for a community and for our investigators." His agency confirmed to the IndyStar that a body had been found in Morgan County.

Marshall's statements at the heart of criminal charges

According to a probable cause affidavit outlining the investigation, the couple fled Oklahoma with Snow and Snow's younger brother, Coleton, earlier this year. The biological father of Snow and Coleton told the Seminole County Sheriff's Office that they "took his children from his home" and left without authorization.

They headed to Indianapolis, where Waters has family. They stayed at a "trap house" there, Waters told law enforcement when he was arrested in Colorado in March, so they could do drugs.

Coleton was eventually located by Waters' sister. He has since been reunited with his biological father.

More: Madison Marshall, mother of missing 2-year-old Oaklee Snow, has first court appearance

Marshall's descriptions of what happened around the time of Snow's death provide a large chunk of the information authorities are using to support the charges. She told an Indianapolis Metropolitan police detective that Waters frequently hit Snow while they were together.

"He would frequently 'whoop' or 'spank' her as a form of discipline," the affidavit states, quoting Marshall. "He had also occasionally 'choked her out.' This included for reasons of her crying, urinating in her diaper, 'holding a fork wrong,' and other behavior common of a toddler."

Marshall sees Snow's unresponsive body

On Feb. 9, Waters was yelling at Snow to bounce on a bouncy ball, Marshall said. She told police she was in another room when Waters started screaming Marshall's name.

She ran to the living room and found Waters holding Snow's unresponsive body in his arms. "R. Waters continually repeated without prompting that he 'didn’t do anything' and that 'it wasn’t (his) fault,'" the affidavit states. Her eyes were closed, Marshall said, and blood and spit were dripping from her mouth.

Shortly after, they got into Waters' car with the toddler and drove southwest.

'Find Oaklee': Community members hold vigil for toddler last seen in Indianapolis

Waters told Marshall their alibi would be that they left Snow at an Indiana hospital, according to court records. Snow's biological father and other family members and friends told officials no hospital they had contacted in the state showed any record of her.

Mike Ellis, the Morgan County coroner, told the IndyStar on Wednesday it would still be two to four weeks until the body recovered from the abandoned house is identified.

Waters doesn't currently have any court dates scheduled. Marshall had a hearing Wednesday. Her bond was set at $200,000.

Snow's loved ones declined interviews Wednesday, but a family friend said in a statement that they are "heartbroken at the results" for Snow.

"We are numb, and at a loss for words," the statement read. "Nothing can explain the amount of pain family and close loved ones are feeling at this time. We will always carry Oaklee in our hearts for the rest of our life. She did not deserve this, and we are seeking justice for Oaklee. Please continue prayers for her family and loved ones. This is a nightmare that unfortunately we won't get to wake up from."

Contributing: IndyStar reporter John Tufts; Oklahoman reporter Jessie Christopher Smith.

Call IndyStar courts reporter Johnny Magdaleno at 317-273-3188 or email him at jmagdaleno@indystar.com. Follow him on Twitter @IndyStarJohnny

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Madison Marshall, Roan Waters charged in toddler Oaklee Snow's death