Stepfather Who Claimed Toddler Vanished After Nap Is Charged After Girl's Body Is Found

Two-year-old Navaeh Allen was last seen alive Friday at her home in Baton Rouge, La., before her body was found Sunday in Mississippi

Neveah Allen
Navaeh Allen. Photo: Baton Rouge Police Department

A 30-year-old Louisiana man is facing charges in connection with the death of his 2-year-old stepdaughter after her body was found in Mississippi on Sunday.

Navaeh Allen, 2, was reported missing Friday afternoon from her residence on La Belle Avenue in the Belaire neighborhood of Baton Rouge when her siblings arrived home from school at about 4:15 p.m. and couldn't find her anywhere, the Louisiana State Police said in a release.

The toddler's siblings came home to find "the apartment door was open and the child was missing," the release said.

The Louisiana State Police issued a Level II Endangered Missing Child Advisory on behalf of the Baton Rouge Police Department for Navaeh, saying she was believed to be "in imminent danger."

"The child was last seen by her stepfather this afternoon, September 24, 2021, when he took a nap at the residence at approximately 1:00 p.m.," the Louisiana State Police said in the statewide news release.

Navaeh's mother, Lanaya Cardwell, was at work when her daughter went missing, WAFB reports.

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On Saturday night, police arrested Navaeh's stepfather, Phillip Gardner, and charged him with unlawful disposal of remains and obstruction of justice, the Baton Rouge Police Department said.

Phillip Gardner. Baton Rouge Police Department

On Sunday, after a massive, multi-agency manhunt, the Baton Route Police Department announced that authorities had recovered Navaeh's body in the Logtown area of Hancock County, Miss., about one hour and 40 minutes east of Baton Rouge.

An autopsy is scheduled to determine her cause of death.

Gardner may face additional charges based on the autopsy results, Baton Rouge Police said, WAFB reports.

Gardner allegedly told police he found Navaeh "lifeless" and dumped her body, arrest records show, WBRZ reports.

As police continue to investigate, the little girl's family is grappling with her loss.

"There's no way," her mother said, WDSU reports. "There's no way. She didn't deserve this."

Anyone with information on the case is urged to call BRPD at 225-389-2000 or Crime Stoppers at 225-344-7867.

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