Pregnant mother of slain toddler, boyfriend both jailed on $375K bonds
BATON ROUGE - Bonds have been set for a couple accused of beating a toddler to death and then faking the child's disappearance.
A judge set bond at $375,000 each for Lanaya Cardwell and Phillip Gardner on Monday. At that same hearing, it was also learned Cardwell is eight months pregnant.
Cardwell was arrested Wednesday in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Nevaeh Allen. A judge later put a hold on Cardwell's bond, which kept her in jail over the weekend.
Nevaeh was reported missing from her mother's Baton Rouge apartment Sept. 24, kicking off an expansive search for the girl. A day later, detectives would arrest Gardner, who was initially described by family and police as the toddler's stepfather, in the girl's disappearance after he admitted to investigators that he dumped Nevaeh's body in Mississippi when the child became unresponsive.
Officers gradually learned more about what happened to the toddler from questioning Gardner and the girl's mother, leading them to charge both with second-degree murder on Wednesday.
Arrest records allege that on the morning of the girl's disappearance, Cardwell punched her daughter after the 2-year-old grabbed her contact lenses and caused the child to fall backward and hit her head on a cabinet. After Gardner dropped Cardwell off at work, he said Nevaeh was complaining of stomach pain and refused to eat. He later found her unresponsive on the couch and unsuccessfully tried to administer CPR, according to arrest documents.
Gardner then allegedly put the girl in a suitcase and drove to Logtown, Mississippi where he disposed of the body in a wooded area. Afterward he returned to the Baton Rouge apartment complex, where Cardwell would later tell police and local news outlets that she had no idea where her child was.
Prosecutors argued in court Monday that the erroneous missing person report "imposed danger" on the parish because of the sheer amount of resources used for the search.
The WBRZ Investigative Unit learned Thursday that Gardner and Cardwell have told police conflicting stories about how Nevaeh died. As of Friday, police said it's unclear whether Cardwell knew her child was dead when the missing person report was filed.
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