An Indianapolis man was arrested and charged with the 1977 beating murder of his girlfriend’s 18-month-old son.
Micheal V. Ackerman, 57, was arrested and charged late Wednesday with the Jan. 17, 1977, murder of toddler William T. (Billy) Wood, according to Marion County prosecutor Terry Curry.
Thirty-six years ago, Billy died covered in bruises. The coroner, for unknown reasons, ruled the cause of death “undetermined” rather than a homicide, although Billy had a torn liver, rips to his colon and connective tissue, a fractured skull, and bleeding in his abdomen and brain.
His sister, Indy Jo Wood, who only 3-year-old at the time, witnessed some of what happened to Billy. Wood said no one asked her at the time if she knew anything about her brother’s death. In February 2013, Wood told police she was in the apartment when her mother’s then-boyfriend killed Billy. The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s Cold Case Unit then reopened the case.
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Wood said she was haunted by the incident and her mother never gave her satisfying answers about his death, according to an affidavit used in Ackerman’s arrest.
Sgt. David Ellison, lead detective in the Cold Case Unit, built a case against Ackerman, speaking with Wood, her mother, and retired medics and police officers. He had several medical examiners review Billy’s autopsy report.
Ackerman was charged with second-degree murder and is being held without bond. Police had to break down his door at 9 p.m. Wednesday to make the arrest.
Wood told Ellison she remembers Ackerman babysitting her and her brother when her mother went to work on Jan. 17, 1977. She said he told her to sit at the table and drink her juice, while he went to give Billy a bath.
Wood said she heard a “bloodcurdling scream” and ran to the bathroom to find Billy sitting on the sink screaming, his face red and purple. She said Ackerman was holding the toddler by his shoulders. Wood said she got scared and left the bathroom. Other events are hazy, but she remembers police talking to her.
“A police officer later examined her body but never asked what (happened) to her brother,” Ellison wrote in the affidavit.
Ackerman was arrested dozens of times since 2002, as far back as police records document. Records show he has been charged with harassment, battery, and larceny.
According to documents released Thursday, Ackerman has claimed to be a former Green Beret and Vietnam veteran, has mental health issues and even tried to commit suicide in January.
Forensic expert Dr. John Pless said Billy’s bruises were “compatible with fist blows that were with significant enough force to cause” tears in the liver and other organs, the probably cause affidavit said.
“Furthermore, in the opinion of Dr. Pless, these cannot be accidental injuries and are too severe to be resuscitation injuries,” the affidavit said.
If convicted, Ackerman faces 15-25 years to life in prison.