Toddler’s death ruled homicide; bond set for suspect arrested in disappearance

Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 6:24 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 27, 2021 at 10:22 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner’s Office has ruled the manner of death of Nevaeh Allen, 2, as a homicide but the exact cause of death is pending further tests.

Authorities said the toddler’s body was found in Mississippi on Sunday, Sept. 26, the same day her stepfather was arrested in connection with the investigation into her disappearance.

Nevaeh has black hair, brown eyes, and weighs around 20 pounds. She was last seen wearing a...
Nevaeh has black hair, brown eyes, and weighs around 20 pounds. She was last seen wearing a yellow dress with pineapples and no shoes.(Baton Rouge Fire Department)

The Hancock County (Mississippi) coroner confirmed Allen’s body was found there. It was located near the Pearlington area, which is about 20 minutes from Slidell. An autopsy was done on Monday, Sept. 27. The East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner’s Office said complete autopsy results could take up to 90 days. An investigator from the EBR Coroner’s Office traveled to Mississippi on Sunday to bring the body back to Baton Rouge.

The baby’s stepfather, Phillip Gardner, 30, was booked into the East Baton Rouge Prison on Sunday on charges of unlawful disposal of remains and obstruction of justice. His bond was set at $75,000 on Monday. As of 2:25 p.m., he had not yet bonded out.

According to BRPD, he could face additional charges based on the autopsy results. Police added they will hold a news conference at some point during the upcoming week.

Phillip Gardner
Phillip Gardner(EBRSO)

Investigators said earlier in the day that they believed her body was across the state line. They added detectives with BRPD, the FBI, Hancock County Sheriff’s Office, and Gulf Coast Search and Rescue were involved in finding the toddler’s body.

Baton Rouge detectives started their search for the missing toddler at an apartment complex on La Belle Avenue on Friday, Sept. 24. They continued searching Saturday, which is when the FBI became involved in the investigation.

Gardner reportedly told police he had last seen Nevaeh when he took a nap at the apartment around 1 p.m. Police added when her siblings returned home from school around 4:15 p.m., the apartment door was open and the child was missing.

According to Lanaya Cardwell, the missing girl’s mother, she was at work when she got a call the baby was missing from the apartment.

FBI agents from the New Orleans and Jackson, Miss. field offices arrived in Baton Rouge on Saturday to begin working with BRPD in hopes of finding the toddler.

BRPD added the mother and stepfather were taken in for questioning Saturday as part of routine procedure in this type of case.

Louisiana State Police issued a Level II Endangered/Missing Child Advisory Friday night. Troopers canceled the advisory Sunday afternoon.

Nevaeh would have been three years old in February.

Anyone with information about the case is urged to call BRPD at 225-389-2000 or Crime Stoppers at 225-344-7867.

You can also contact the FBI’s New Orleans office at 504-816-3000 with any information.

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