The body of a 2-year-old girl who went missing in Louisiana Friday has been found in Mississippi, with her stepfather arrested in connection with her death.
Authorities found the body of Nevaeh Allen 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 to her death.
The toddler was reported missing in her Baton Rouge neighborhood two days prior, police reported.
Authorities reported that they had found the body of missing Louisiana toddler Nevaeh Allen (pictured) Sunday afternoon across state lines in Mississippi, two days after she was reported missing
The girl’s mother, Lanaya Cardwell, said Gardner had put her down for a nap and fell asleep himself at around 1pm.
But when her oldest son returned home hours later, he found the front door open and Nevaeh missing, while Gardiner still slept, WVLA reported.
Cardwell, who affectionately referred to her daughter as Nu Nu, was away at work at the time of the disappearance, and noted that she was not known to wander off.
‘I never once had to correct Nevaeh for even leaving the house without an adult. Navaeh knows better,’ she said.
Allen’s stepfather Phillip Gardner was arrested in connection to Nevaeh’s disappearance after he admitted to disposing of her body to police. He has so far not been charged in her death
The girl’s disappearance sparked a massive search, and on Saturday the FBI was called to aide in the effort.
‘Nevaeh, the little girl, my little boy and her daddy drove me to work and that’s the last time I saw my baby,’ she told WAFB amid the frantic search for her daughter. ‘I don’t know what could have happened. I don’t know what went wrong, I wish would have stayed home from work. I don’t know, I don’t know.’
Gardner had initially told investigators that he was at home sleeping when he awoke to find Nevaeh had vanished, and the door unlocked.
‘The story done changed,’ Baton Rouge 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 then expected the worst.
‘Evidence and interviews points to the unimaginable,’ McKneely said before Neveah’s body was discovered. ‘The baby may be dead. ‘We’re currently working with law enforcement partners and search crews to locate the child’s body.’
According to his arrest report, Gardner later admitted that he had found the toddler ‘unresponsive and lifeless,’ the Advocate reported, and that he had admitted to disposing of the body, but he has so far not been implicated 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 that the body will be turned over to Louisiana authorities for an 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 assist on Saturday
Family members described a toxic relationship between Gardner and Cardwell, the Advocate reported, and that violence would erupt between them, sometimes involving the toddler.
Cardwell’s mother Jessica Billiot recounted an alleged incident in which he hit Cardwell, who is pregnant, and a neighbor called the police. The couple, however, refused to answer the door when police arrived, Billiot said, and no report was filed.
In another alleged incident, she said she witnessed Gardner ‘have a fit at’ the girl after she spilled slime on the carpet, and forced her to hold a vacuum in an attempt to have her clean it up.
When Cardwell questioned what he was doing, Blliot said, Gardner allegedly tossed the vacuum at the wall.
Eventually, the toddler’s body was found in the remote Logtown area of Hancock County in Mississippi (pictured), and authorities there are due to transfer the remains to Louisiana authorities for autopsy
‘Nevaeh starts crying,’ she told the Advocate. ‘To me, there were some things going on there that I did not 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 Advocate that he had been skeptical of Gardner’s story on her disappearance.
‘He’s the last family person to see her,’ he said. ‘It honestly makes no sense.’
Nevaeh would have been three years old in February.