Body of missing 2-year-old Nevaeh Allen found; stepfather charged with unlawful disposal of remains

HANCOCK COUNTY, Miss. — The body of a Baton Rouge toddler was found in a remote area of Mississippi on Sunday, two days after she was reported missing, and her stepfather has been arrested in connection with the death.

Pearl River County Coroner Derek Turnage confirmed to the Sun Herald that 2-year-old Navaeh Allen’s body was found by authorities on Sunday in the Logtown area of Hancock County.

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Meanwhile, the child’s stepfather, 30-year-old Phillip Gardner, was arrested on charges of unlawful disposal of remains and obstruction of justice, The Advocate reported.

According to WBRZ, the child was last seen when Gardner fell asleep while watching her around lunchtime Friday, but she was not discovered as missing until her siblings returned home from school at around 4 p.m. and found the apartment door open.

Investigators determined after questioning Gardner that they had enough information to charge him with a crime related to allegations that he hid the missing child’s body, the TV station reported.

Members of the child’s family told The Advocate that the toddler’s mother, Lanaya Cardwell, had a “toxic,” often violent relationship with Gardner and that sometimes the violence involved the little girl.

Marcus Allen, the child’s father, told the newspaper that he last saw Navaeh on Wednesday before dropping her off to spend the rest of the week with Cardwell and Gardner.

Turnage told the Sun Herald that the child’s body will be turned over to Louisiana authorities for autopsy.