Man Arrested After His Step-Daughter, 2, Was Found Dead Two Days After Her Disappearance In Mississippi
The body of a 2-year-old girl who went missing in Louisiana on Friday has been found in Mississippi, while her stepfather has been arrested in connection with her death.
Authorities found Nevaeh Allen’s body in a remote area across state lines in Mississippi Sunday afternoon, after a two-day search for the girl.
They arrested stepfather Phillip Gardner, 30, and charged him with disposing of the body, but have so far not charged him in connection with her death.
The toddler was reported missing in her Baton Rouge borough two days earlier, police said.
Authorities reported finding the body of missing Louisiana toddler Nevaeh Allen (pictured) across state lines in Mississippi Sunday afternoon, two days after she was reported missing.
The girl’s mother, Lanaya Cardwell, said Gardner put her down for a nap and fell asleep herself around 1:00 p.m.
But when her oldest son returned hours later, he found the front door open and Nevaeh missing, while Gardiner was still asleep, WVLA reported.
Cardwell, who affectionately named her daughter Nu Now, was at work at the time of the disappearance and noted that she was not known to be wandering.
“I never had to correct Nevaeh because he left the house even without an adult. Navaeh knows better,” she said.
Allen’s stepfather Phillip Gardner was arrested in connection with Nevaeh’s disappearance after admitting to giving her body to the police. He has not yet been charged for her death
The girl’s disappearance sparked a massive search, and on Saturday the FBI was called to assist in the attempt.
“Nevaeh, the little girl, my son and her father drove me to work and that’s the last time I saw my baby,” she told WAFB during the frantic search for her daughter. ‘I don’t know what could have happened. I don’t know what went wrong, I wish I had stayed home from work. I don’t know, I don’t know.’
Gardner had initially told investigators he was sleeping at home when he awoke to find that Nevaeh was gone and the door was unlocked.
“The story has changed,” police spokesman Sgt. L’Jean McKneely Jr. said Sunday after the arrest, according to the Baton Rouge Advocate.
After further interviews with Gardner, police said they expected the worst at the time.
“Evidence and interviews point to the unimaginable,” McKneely said before Neveah’s body was discovered. “The baby may be dead. “We are currently working with law enforcement partners and search teams to locate the child’s body.”
According to his arrest report, Gardner later admitted to finding the toddler “unresponsive and lifeless,” the attorney reported, and admitted to discarding the body, but so far he has not been involved in her death.
The body was found in the remote Logtown area of Hancock County, and Pearl River County Coroner Derek Turnage said Sunday, and the body will be turned over to Louisiana authorities for autopsy, according to the Sun Herald.
Nevaeh’s mother, Lanaya Cardwell (pictured), said the last time she saw her daughter was when she was dropped off at work Friday morning.
The girl’s disappearance sparked a massive search, with the FBI called in to help on Saturday
Relatives described a toxic relationship between Gardner and Cardwell, the attorney reported, and that violence would break out between them, sometimes involving the toddler.
Cardwell’s mother Jessica Billiot told of an alleged incident where he beat Cardwell, who is pregnant, and a neighbor called the police. However, the couple refused to open the door when police arrived, Billiot said, and no charges were filed.
In another alleged incident, she said she witnessed Gardner having an attack on the girl after she spilled slime on the carpet and forced her to hold a vacuum cleaner in an attempt to clean it up.
When Cardwell asked what he was doing, Blliot said, Gardner allegedly threw the vacuum cleaner at the wall.
The toddler’s body was eventually found in the remote Logtown area of Hancock County in Mississippi (pictured), and authorities there will turn over the remains to Louisiana authorities for autopsy.
“Nevaeh is starting to cry,” she told the lawyer. “There were things going on for me that I didn’t like.”
The girl’s father, Marcus Allen, last saw her on Wednesday, when he dropped her off to spend the rest of the week with Cardwell and Gardner, and was supposed to pick her up Sunday.
He said his daughter was “the perfect 2-year-old” and that she loved animals. He told the attorney that he was skeptical about Gardner’s story of her disappearance.
“He’s the last family person to see her,” he said. “It really doesn’t make any sense.”
Nevaeh would have turned three in February.