Boy Died In Dog Crate After Being Forced To Sleep There: Police

DENVER, CO – A woman who shared a jail pod with Elisha A. Pankey, 43, tipped police that Pankey and her husband forced their son Caden McWilliams, 8, to sleep in a dog crate where he died one night in July, newly unsealed arrest documents revealed Tuesday.

The boy’s parents took the crate covered with blankets to a Denver storage unit where they covered the boy’s body with fast-setting cement and left it there, the documents say.

When Elisha Pankey surrendered to Denver police in January, she was charged with child abuse resulting in death and abuse of a corpse. She is now being held in Denver County jail on $250,000 bond.

Denver and Aurora police learned that Elisha Pankey and her husband, Leland Pankey, had two children, but only one child, a daughter, could be located in December 2018 after Elisha Pankey called Aurora police and said her husband had strangled and threatened to kill her, the arrest affidavit said.

In her Dec. 17 report to police, Elisha Pankey said her husband had taken both of the children and left the Extended hotel where they were staying. Police questioned Leland Pankey about the whereabouts of Caden, and he was evasive and changed the subject, the arrest affidavit said. An employee at a daycare the Pankeys’ daughter attended told police Cayden was “lost,” according to the affidavit.

In Janaury, police arrested Leland Pankey on assault charges stemming from the domestic violence incident his wife reported and opened a missing persons investigation for Caden.

Elisha Pankey was arrested on drug charges on Dec. 22 when police found heroin in her room at an Aurora hotel.

The arrest affidavit details how a woman who shared Elisha Pankey’s cell at Arapahoe County Jail ended up sharing a room at an Extended Stay Hotel in the 14000 block of East Evans Avenue with Pankey after both women were released.

The informant told police that Elisha Pankey confessed to her that she and her husband had made Caden sleep in the blanket-covered dog crate when they stayed in the hotel. The informant said she could hear the boy crying and saying that he was hungry and thirsty, but his mother stayed in bed, according to the affidavit.

The informant said that after Elisha Pankey found her son dead in the dog crate on a morning last July, she and her husband loaded the crate in their car, bought the fast-setting cement at a hardware and drove to a storage unit. Once there, they filled the crate with cement with Caden’s body still inside, the affidavit said.

Denver and Aurora police searched the storage unit on the 5000 block of East Evans Avenue on Dec. 23 after finding a business card for the storage company in Leland Pankey’s hotel room. At the unit, they found the dog crate and brought in cadaver dogs after smelling the odor of a decomposing body.

An autopsy by the Denver Medical Examiner’s office showed Caden was emaciated and had cocaine and methamphetamine in his liver. The autopsy also indicated the boy had blunt force injuries to his head and trunk and a broken forearm. The report also noted he weighed only 28 pounds when he was examined by a pediatrician in May 2018. The medical examiner’s office was unable to determine a cause of death, but concluded child abuse likely was a contributing factor.

The arrest affidavit also said Elisha Pankey lied about Caden’s whereabouts to his grandmother and claimed he was attending a summer science camp, and that she withdrew him from classes at Denver’s Ellis Elementary School on Aug. 24, 2018, telling administrators she planned to teach him at home.

Elisha Pankey will appear in court April 2 for a preliminary hearing, the Denver District Attorney’s Office said.

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