Body of Baton Rouge toddler found in Mississippi; stepfather arrested in disappearance

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A 2-year-old Baton Rouge, Louisiana, girl was found dead in Mississippi just days after she was reported missing, authorities said Monday.

The body of Nevaeh Allen was recovered Sunday in Hancock County, Mississippi, just northeast of New Orleans, according to the Baton Rouge Police Department. Her cause of death was not released.

Nevaeh was reported missing Friday after her older siblings arrived home after school and noticed that the door to their apartment was open and that the toddler was gone, Louisiana State Police said at the time. Her stepfather, Phillip Gardner, told authorities that he took a nap at about 1 p.m. and that it was the last time he saw Nevaeh.

IMAGE: Nevaeh Allen (Baton Rouge Police Department)
IMAGE: Nevaeh Allen (Baton Rouge Police Department)

He was arrested in connection with her disappearance on charges of unlawful disposal of remains and obstruction of justice. Inmate records show he was booked into the East Baton Rouge Prison and remained in custody Monday morning.

It's unclear if Gardner has retained an attorney.

Nevaeh's mother, Lanaya Cardwell, tearfully told reporters Friday that she was at work when her daughter disappeared and that it wasn't like her to wander off. Cardwell said that she last saw her daughter before she started work and that Nevaeh, who is affectionately known as Nu Nu, was wearing a yellow and pink dress with pineapples on it.

"Nevaeh is not known for wandering around," Cardwell said. "I never once had to correct Nevaeh for even leaving the house without an adult. Nevaeh knows better."