Mother and boyfriend at odds over how toddler died, other kids in state custody
BATON ROUGE - The WBRZ Investigative Unit learned Thursday the mother of 2-year-old Nevaeh Allen is telling a different story than her boyfriend involving the death of her daughter.
WBRZ also learned from sources that four other children who were living with Lanaya Cardwell and her boyfriend were taken into state custody.
In arrest documents first reported by WBRZ Wednesday, Phillip Gardner told investigators Nevaeh's mother, Cardwell, punched the child in the chest after she grabbed her contact lenses. The child hit her head on a cabinet, and went "lifeless" after Gardner took Cardwell to work. The child was unresponsive, and Gardner admitted to stuffing her in a suitcase and driving her to Mississippi where he buried her.
Lanaya Cardwell was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. Phillip Gardner was arrested over the weekend for disposing the remains and obstruction of justice. Additional charges of second-degree murder were also added for him on Wednesday.
District Attorney Hillar Moore said investigators spent the weekend trying to bring Nevaeh Allen's body back to Louisiana.
"We worked hard with the coroner here, to work with the district attorney in Mississippi to get the child's body back to [EBR coroner] Dr. Clark," Moore said.
Investigators are waiting for the East Baton Rouge Parish coroner to determine a cause of death for Nevaeh. This week, the coroner ruled her death a homicide.
"Right now, the physical and scientific evidence are what's going to be what drives things," Moore said. "In addition to statements people made."
Moore said he expects a judge to make a ruling on Cardwell and Gardner's bonds soon. The coroner expects to have more information about the cause of death in a few weeks when toxicology and other tests are completed.
WBRZ asked DCFS about whether other children were removed from the apartment where Cardwell and Gardner lived.
They gave the following response.
"DCFS cannot comment on, or even acknowledge the existence of, a potential investigation of abuse or neglect involving a child. If there is an investigation, state laws make the entire process – from report to investigation to outcome – confidential."
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