Nevaeh Allen was a 2 year old baby who went missing on Friday September 24 from Baton Rouge, LA.
Her older siblings arrived home from school on Friday and found the door to their apartment open and Nevaeh was gone.
The story given at the time to police was that Nevaeh had been left in the care of her mother’s boyfriend Phillip Gardner. Phillip said he had been taking a nap and when he woke up, Nevaeh was gone. I believe he said the nap he took was hours long – like 2-3 hours.
Police searched non-stop for Nevaeh
Her mother Lanaya spoke to the media and we have a clip of it:
“I don’t know what could have happened. I don’t know what went wrong,” she said tearfully. “I wish I would have stayed home from work, I don’t know. That’s all I know.”
She said she last saw Nevaeh that morning before going to work, when she brought the child to the corner store and got her some snacks and apple juice.
“That’s the last time I seen my baby,” she said, sobbing into the camera. “When I went to work, she had on her yellow dress with the pineapples on it, and she should have still had on that dress.”
On Sunday September 26, Phillip changed his story and was arrested.
“The story done changed,” Baton Rouge police spokesman Sgt. L’Jean McKneely Jr. said Sunday.
According to his arrest report, Phillip later “admitted that he found the juvenile unresponsive and lifeless” and further admitted to “disposing of the remains without notifying authorities.”
He was booked into jail on counts of unlawful disposal of remains and obstruction of justice.
Navaeh’s family told The Advocate that Gardner and the baby’s mother, Lanaya Cardwell, had a “toxic relationship” that was marked by violence, sometimes involving the child.
Marcus Allen, Navaeh’s father, told The Advocate that he last saw his daughter on Wednesday before dropping her off to spend the rest of the week with her mother and stepfather. He described Navaeh to the newspaper as “the perfect 2-year-old” who loved animals and the park.
Later on Sunday, police found the tiny body of Nevaeh.
The FBI, in conjunction with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office, found her remains near Logtown Road in Hancock County, Miss.
Her body was transported back to Louisiana for an autopsy.
On Wednesday, September 29, police arrested Nevaeh’s mother Lanaya Cardwell. She was charged with second-degree murder and second-degree cruelty to juveniles. Philip’s charges were also upgraded to include second-degree murder.
Affidavits were released and we learned some horrific information about Nevaehs death.
In the early morning hours of Friday, Sept. 24, Lanaya Cardwell punched the child in the chest out of anger after the toddler picked up Cardwell’s contact lenses. As a result, Nevaeh fell backward and hit her head on a cabinet. Later in the day, Nevaeh complained of stomach pain and did not eat. Documents said according to Gardner the child went to lie down and was found unresponsive.
Affidavits stated that Gardner attempted CPR, but his life-saving efforts were not successful. When asked why he did not make a 911 call, he could not explain, according to documents.
Gardner admitted to putting her body into a small suitcase and disposing of her body in Mississippi to protect Cardwell, according to arrest documents. Gardner told authorities that he traveled to the neighboring state with the three-year-old and 11-month-old in his care before returning home and reporting Nevaeh as missing to police.
After the autopsy, police said a forensic pathologist told them “it cannot be ruled out that the victim was still alive at the time that Gardner placed her in the suitcase and suffocated to death prior to succumbing to the other injuries.”
The autopsy also found “multiple contusions to the face and head along with swelling to the brain,” according to arrest documents. Documents said marks and bruises were also seen on the body along with injuries to the stomach.
The affidavit explains that Phillip is accused of second-degree murder, too, because “all persons concerned in the commission of a crime are principals whether present or absent, and whether they directly commit the act constituting the offense, aid and abet in it’s commission, or directly or indirectly counsel or procure another to commit the crime are principals.”
By that standard, the affidavit states, “Gardner was a principal to this crime.”
On October 5, 19th Judicial District Court Judge Christopher Dassau set bond for both Lanaya Cardwell and Phillip Gardner, at $375,000.
This info comes from wafb.com:
Cardwell was appointed a private attorney just before Monday’s hearing, since the Public Defender’s Office is representing her boyfriend Gardner. This was done because the same office cannot represent the couple because of a potential conflict of interest.
Cardwell and Gardner told Judge Dassau they do not have the money to pay the current bond amount. If they do, they will be under house arrest with several conditions, including no contact with each other or any minors.
Gail Ray, the attorney assigned to Cardwell, said Dassau’s decision to set bail and not revoke it was the right call.
Ray said Cardwell is 8 months pregnant and should not be considered a flight risk.
“I understand that this is a very serious offense, but the law and the evidence is to the effect that cash bonds don’t really determine if somebody will come back to court or not, and that’s what the bond is supposed to be for,” Ray said.
Gail fears Cardwell and the newborn baby’s health could be in jeopardy if she gives birth in prison, given the current state of the pandemic.
”That was my reasoning behind requesting a lower bond. I understand the state’s position and I understand the judge has to make a call; I just happen to disagree with it,” Ray said.
DCFS provided this statement about the investigation into Nevaeh’s death:
“We can confirm that we have an open case involving the death of this child. Because there is an open criminal investigation and we are cooperating with law enforcement, we are unable to comment further at this time.”