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Police report: Mom punched toddler; boyfriend packed body in suitcase and buried it

The search for Neveah Allen went on for three days before police found her body in a wooded area in Hancock, Miss.

BATON ROUGE, La. — The mother of two-year-old Neveah Allen and her boyfriend have been arrested for second-degree murder in the case of the young child who was at first reported missing and whose remains were later discovered in a remote area of Mississippi.

Lanaya Cardwell and her live-in boyfriend Philip Gardner are both charged with second-degree murder in the child’s death and an arrest report released late Wednesday presents an ugly picture of what police say occurred prior to Neveah being reported missing and State Police issuing an Endangered Child Alert.

According to WBRZ-TV and The Advocate newspaper, arrest documents showed that Neveah was with her mother as Cardwell was getting ready for work. At some point the 2-year-old picked up her mother’s contact lenses and Cardwell reportedly punched the child in the stomach, causing her to fall and strike her head on a cabinet.

The documents then indicate that Cardwell picked up the child and was yelling at her. Gardner told police that Neveah had a bruise on her forehead and that he then took Cardwell to work and when he returned with Neveah, she laid down and wouldn’t eat and became unresponsive. Gardner was apparently watching two other young children at the home at the time.

The documents said Gardner tried to revive Neveah but couldn’t. He then put her body in a suitcase, drove the other two children with him to Mississippi and buried her in the woods.

The autopsy said Neveah had multiple bruises on her face and head, along with swelling in her brain. The coroner noted that the marks on her face resembled handprints, along with bruises on her thighs and rear.

The report also had the coroner noting that because she suffered brain trauma, “it cannot be ruled out that the victim was still alive at the time that Gardner placed her in the suitcase and suffocated to death."

“Over the last several days, when we first received the call it was our highest priority to bring Neveah home," Chief Paul said. "It saddens me to have to stand here and hold a press conference to discuss the fact that this beautiful innocent angel is no longer with us."

The investigation is still ongoing.

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