Police arrest mother, boyfriend in death of La. toddler

Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 6:46 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 29, 2021 at 6:48 PM EDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB/Gray News) - Lanaya Cardwell, the mother of 2-year-old Nevaeh Allen, and the woman’s boyfriend are now both charged with second-degree murder in connection with the little girl’s death.

The boyfriend, Phillip Gardner, had previously been arrested on lesser charges in the case.

A law enforcement source told WAFB-TV Wednesday that they are still uncertain who allegedly committed the killing and that the investigation continues.

A probable cause report, which should provide more details on the police investigation, is expected to be released Wednesday evening.

Allen, age 2, was found dead Sunday in a wooded area in Hancock County, Mississippi, after she was reported missing from her home in Baton Rouge last Friday.

An autopsy revealed the death was a homicide. However, investigators said a specific cause of death was not determined and results of more tests, including toxicology tests, are still pending. Investigators have declined to say whether there were any signs of trauma to the girl’s body.

Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul announced the arrest of the mother Wednesday afternoon. The chief said it saddens him that “this beautiful, innocent angel is no longer with us.”

The little girl’s name, Nevaeh, is the “Heaven” spelled backward.

Gardner was charged in the case earlier this week for allegedly disposing of her body. He was charged with unlawful disposal of human remains and obstruction of justice. A warrant was issued late Wednesday afternoon adding second-degree murder to his charges.

Cardwell is currently pregnant with another child who she says Gardner is the father of.

Cardwell claimed she left Nevaeh in her boyfriend’s care while she went to work. She claimed Gardner later reported he could not locate the girl.

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