Baby sitter charged with murder 36 years after 18-month-old Indianapolis boy died in his care

Michael Ackerman, 57, charged with murder

INDIANAPOLIS - Nearly four decades after the unexplained death of an 18-month-old Indianapolis boy, his baby sitter has now been charged with murder.

Michael Ackerman, 57, was baby-sitting William T. Wood in an Indianapolis apartment on Jan. 17, 1977, when the toddler was found dead.

According to the probable cause affidavit, the original death certificate listed the child's cause of death as multiple injuries/undetermined.

But the death had haunted Wood's then 3-year-old sister, Indy Jo Wood, who is now 39 years old. She wanted the case reopened, and even has recollections of the crime, prosecutors said.

"She remembers the defendant having interaction with the victim in that case. She remembers him taking the victim to the bathroom. She remembers crying," said Marion County Deputy Prosecutor Denise Robinson. "She actually was able to describe the room she was in, and the photographs bear that out."

Prosecutors asked forensic pathologist Dr. Dean Hawley to review the victim's autopsy records, and he came to a different conclusion than the original report.

"The cause of death was blunt-force injuries of the head, chest and abdomen, and, my opinion with reasonable medical certainty, is that William Wood was a victim of medically diagnosable child abuse," Hawley said.

That change in evidence could be enough to convict Ackerman, even after 36 years.

"Yogi Berra was famous for saying, "It's not over until it's over.' With homicide, it's never really over. There is no statute of limitations," said noted Indianapolis defense attorney Jack Crawford, who is not affiliated with this case. "Cases can be brought after many, many years, and a person prosecuted and convicted for a murder done 25 or 35 years ago."

A preliminary plea of not guilty was entered on Ackerman's behalf Monday. He was appointed a public defender. His trial is set for July 8.

Follow Derrik Thomas on Twitter: @derrikthomas

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