Stepfather of missing Louisiana toddler arrested after body found in Mississippi

The two-year-old’s cause of death has not yet been released

Helen Elfer
Monday 27 September 2021 19:02
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The stepfather of a toddler found dead in Mississippi has been arrested, say police.

After being reported missing from her Louisiana home on Friday, the body of two-year-old Nevaeh Allen was found on Sunday in Hancock County, according to the Baton Rouge Police Department. Her cause of death was not released.

According to Louisiana State Police, Nevaeh’s older siblings arrived home after school to find their apartment door open and the toddler not there.

Nevaeh’s mother, Lanaya Cardwell, told reporters on Friday that she was at work when her daughter disappeared and that it was out of character for the little girl to wander off alone.

“Nevaeh is not known for wandering around,” Ms Cardwell said. “I never once had to correct Nevaeh for even leaving the house without an adult. Nevaeh knows better.”

Phillip Gardner, Nevaeh’s stepfather, initially told authorities that he took a nap at about 1pm and that was the last time he saw the child, reports NBC News.

According to WBRZ, arrest records show Mr Gardner later said he found the girl lifeless and then dumped her body somewhere without telling anyone. He then led police to the spot where he had left the toddler’s remains.

Police, the fire department, State Police and the FBI were involved in the three-day-long search for the missing girl.

Detectives questioned both Mr Gardner and Ms Cardwell over the weekend before Mr Gardner was arrested on charges of unlawful disposal of remains and obstruction of justice. Records show he was taken to East Baton Rouge Prison and was being held in custody on Monday morning.

Nevaeh’s body was taken back to East Baton Rouge for an autopsy and the coroner’s office said that it expected to complete the examination later on Monday.