A Colorado woman surrendered to police Wednesday night after authorities found a deceased boy hidden inside a storage unit on December 23.
The Denver Post reports that 43-year-old Elisha Pankey is facing murder charges after police found a boy who is likely her son, 7-year-old Caden McWilliams, dead inside a storage unit off of 5005 East Evans Avenue, in Denver.
According to the Denver Police Department, Caden may have died around May 24, 2018. Authorities didn’t specify when the boy was reported missing or who reported him missing, but they began actively searching for him on December 21. The boy’s cause of death will be determined via the county medical examiner.
On December 22, while authorities were still looking for Caden, his mother was arrested for heroin possession. An officer was asked to pick up her prescription medication at an Extended Stay America and bring it to her at another hotel, La Quinta Inn. When the officer looked in the nightstand in the hotel room for the medication, he found 4 grams of heroin inside prescription bottles with the suspect’s name on them, according to the arrest affidavit.
After obtaining a search warrant, police also found drug paraphernalia. The officer reportedly indicated that no prescription medication was found inside the bottles.
It’s unclear why the officer was asked to pick up the suspect’s medication or why she was staying in different hotels. Yet, court records indicate that police were investigating the “crime scene for a missing child” on the same day the officer was asked to get the medication from the hotel.
Police also arrested the suspect’s ex, Leland Pankey, on December 21, on an outstanding warrant for a 2017 domestic violence charge. He has not been charged in connection with Caden’s death.
Acting on a tip, police searched the storage unit and found the boy. In the meantime, Pankey had been released on her own recognizance for the heroin charge. After learning authorities found a deceased boy in a storage room, she turned herself. She’s being held on “investigation of child abuse resulting in death.”
The storage unit is located a few blocks from the Cherry Plaza Apartments, where Caden once lived with his mother. Landlord Tina Wright said Pankey stopped paying rent and was subsequently evicted in early 2018. The landlord reportedly said Pankey had financial issues, as well as domestic violence issues.
Wright told CBS Denver that she remembered Caden as a polite boy who would quietly play with his toys outside.
“He was a sweet boy. He played. He was very quiet. He would play outside with his toys. You would talk to him, he would talk to you. You would give something to him, and he would say, ‘Thank you, Miss Tina.’”
Caden attended Ellis Elementary School, where children and staff also remembered him as a sweet boy. The school released a statement shortly after learning of the boy’s death.
“He stood out from others from the moment he walked through the school doors every morning with a huge smile on his face,” the statement read in part. “His smile and eyes showed how kind and sweet he was at the core. Other students wanted to be his friend and looked to Caden for what to do next.”
A judge set Pankey’s bond at $250,000. Her next court date is January 9.
Anyone with information about the suspect or Caden is urged to contact Crime Stoppers at 720-913-7867.
[Feature Photo: Elisha Pankey and Caden McWilliams/Police Handout]