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Police charge mother in toddler’s disappearance, death

September 29, 2021 GMT

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The mother of a 2-year-old girl, whose body was found in a remote part of southwest Mississippi, was arrested Wednesday on charges of second-degree murder.

Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul announced the arrest of Lanaya Cardwell at a press conference Wednesday, news outlets reported. It was unknown if she has an attorney who could speak on her behalf.

Cardwell was charged in connection with the disappearance and death of her daughter, Nevaeh Allen, who was reported missing last Friday. The toddler’s body was found two days later in Pearlington, Mississippi.

Cardwell’s boyfriend, Phillip Gardner, was accused of disposing of the body. He now faces a charge of second-degree murder along with charges of unlawful disposal of remains and obstruction of justice. He was being held on $75,000 bond. It was unknown if he has an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

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Police said Gardner, 30, reportedly told police that he had laid down for a nap and awoke to find the girl missing and the door unlocked. Later, police said he admitted he had found her “unresponsive and lifeless” and disposed of her remains without notifying authorities.

Family members have said Gardner had a violent, “toxic relationship” with the child’s mother.

The child’s body has been turned over to Louisiana authorities for an autopsy. Her death has been ruled a homicide, but a cause of death has not been released.