Mich. Toddler Allegedly Shaken to Death by Stepdad, Severing Her Spine, Because She Was Crying

Lance Reeves has been in custody since Thursday for his alleged role in the murder of Savannah Gardner, who was 2

Photo: Cass County Sheriff's Office

Last week, more than two years after the suspicious death of his 2-year-old stepdaughter, a Michigan man was arrested on a single murder charge as well as three counts of child abuse, with authorities alleging he shook the girl so violently, she sustained a life-ending spinal injury.

According to online records accessed by PEOPLE, Lance Reeves, 43, has been in custody since Thursday for his alleged role in the 2016 death of his stepdaughter, Savannah Gardner.

WSBT obtained a copy of the probable cause affidavit against Reeves, which alleges he was at his Dowagiac home on Oct. 19, 2016, watching Savannah while her mother was napping.

Reeves allegedly told police he put Savannah down for a nap, and “only got a few steps away” from her bedroom when he “heard Savannah yell,” WSBT reported, quoting the probable cause affidavit. “He went back into the room and Savannah was in bed, white as a piece of paper.”

The little girl was rushed to the hospital where she died.

An autopsy allegedly revealed multiple injuries, including contusions and a severed spine. Her death was classified as a homicide.

It took investigators two years to develop enough evidence against Reeves to bring formal charges.

Citing the affidavit, WSBT reported that investigators learned of an incident that occurred just months before Savannah’s death.

In April 2016, during a trip to the Roberts Corey Lake Campground in Three Rivers, a witness allegedly saw Savannah crying. When her mother went to retrieve her sippy cup, the witness alleges Reeves grabbed the girl, and proceeded to “violently shake her back and forth three or four times.”

Reeves then allegedly forced the girl into a camper and told her to “shut up” and “not to come out until she quit crying,” the court documents indicate.

Reeves has pleaded not guilty and faces a lifetime behind bars if convicted.

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It was unclear Tuesday who Reeves’ lawyer is.

Relatives spoke to WSBT about the arrest.

“All along, I thought it was Lance, but we didn’t have evidence and I had only met Lance at the funeral,” explained Tasha McKay, who was Savannah’s cousin. “Now, Savannah can get justice for what happened to her. Prison is where he needs to be.”

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