Missing La. toddler’s body found; stepfather arrested in disappearance

This photo shows 2-year-old Nevaeh Allen.
This photo shows 2-year-old Nevaeh Allen.(Family)
Published: Sep. 26, 2021 at 1:37 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 26, 2021 at 5:21 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB/Gray News) – Authorities said the body of Navaeh Allen, 2, was found in Mississippi on Sunday, Sept. 26, and her stepfather has been arrested in connection with the investigation into her disappearance.

The Hancock County coroner confirmed Allen’s body was found there. It was located near the Pearlington area, which is about 20 minutes from Slidell. Investigators said earlier in the day that they believed her body was across the state line.

Police say an autopsy will be performed by the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner’s Office to determine the cause of death.

The baby’s stepfather, 30-year-old Phillip Gardner, was booked Sunday in East Baton Rouge Prison on charges of unlawful disposal of remains and obstruction of justice. Police say 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)

Detectives with the Baton Rouge Police Department 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.

The BRPD said earlier that the mother and stepfather were taken in for questioning 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 3 years old in February.

Anyone with information on her whereabouts 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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