Mother, stepfather charged with murder of missing toddler, later found dead in Mississippi

Published 5:09 pm Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The mother and stepfather of the Louisiana toddler, who was reported missing and was later found dead in Mississippi, were arrested Wednesday on second-degree murder charges.

Officials from the Baton Rouge Police Department announced the arrests Wednesday afternoon in the death of 2-year-old Neveah Allen.

Allen’s stepfather, Phillip Gardner, had already been jailed for allegedly disposing of the child’s body.

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Now, the mother, Lanaya Cardwell, and Gardner both face second-degree murder charges.

Allen was reported missing Friday afternoon in Baton Rouge. She was reportedly last seen Gardner when he put her down for a nap Friday afternoon. Gardner said he was at home sleeping and woke up to find the toddler gone and the door unlocked, according to police.

Police said Gardner later changed his story, acknowledging he found the girl unresponsive and lifeless and disposed of her remains without notifying authorities.

Cardwell reportedly had a difficult relationship with Gardner. Family members told The Advocate newspaper in Baton Rouge that their relationship was “toxic” and occasionally violent, which even spilled over to involve the 2-year-old.