A father whose 7-year-old son’s body was found encased in concrete inside a dog crate in December has been charged with murder in Colorado.
Leland Pankey, 39, was charged with three counts on May 30—first-degree murder, child abuse resulting in death and tampering with a deceased human, according to a news release by District Attorney Beth McCann in Denver.
Police found a large block of cement inside a dog carrier while searching inside a storage unit on Dec. 23, 2018. The cement block and the crate were found to weigh 267 pounds.
Authorities said the next day, the Denver Medical Examiner’s Office removed the remains of a child from the cement. The child’s body was wrapped in plastic bags and bound with duct tape, according to the Denver Post.
Father faces murder charge in death of 7-year-old Caden McWilliams, whose body was found encased in concrete in Denver storage unit – Lamar Ledger – https://t.co/kr17bjTNjw… pic.twitter.com/5oKqRz2CFv
— American Digest (@americandigest_) May 31, 2019
A post mortem examination conducted on the remains indicated that the body was 7-year-old Caden McWilliams, who died due to homicide “by undetermined means with child maltreatment being a significant factor,” according to the news release.
The child is believed to have been dead since May last year. After his remains were recovered, his mother, Elisha Pankey, was charged in connection with the murder in January.
“What began as a domestic violence call to the Aurora Police Department rapidly evolved into a homicide investigation because responding officers cared enough to ensure the involved children were safe,” said District Attorney McCann.
“We have now implicated both parents in this truly horrific crime,” she said.
The Denver Post reported that the mother told police about the abuse Caden suffered at his father’s hands. The child was beaten and starved by the father and forced to sleep in the crate.
The Denver medical examiner said the victim had taken cocaine and methamphetamine at some point before his death.
According to the post mortem report, the boy weighed 27 pounds at the time of his death, much less than what a child of his age should weigh.
JUST IN: Cocaine, meth traces found in liver of 7-year-old boy whose body was encased in concrete in Denver storage unit https://t.co/l9VYNQp8tf
— The Denver Post (@denverpost) March 1, 2019
“Given the highly suspicious nature to this death, the findings of the postmortem examination and that the decedent is a young child who is dependent on others for his care, the manner of death is homicide,” the forensic pathologist said according to Denver Post.
Before his death, Caden attended Ellis Elementary School, and his school teachers remembered him as a happy, smiling child.
“This case has been painstaking and painful for all involved and it has horrified the public conscience as it progressed. The one thing that I am happy to report is that Caden’s younger sister is safe and adjusting well,” said McCann.
The case is set for a hearing in court on June 27.
— New York Post (@nypost) May 31, 2019
Risks of Child Homicide
Children face the highest risk of homicide from their parents and from those they know, according to a child abuse report published in BMJ.
Homicide is an extreme form of violence against children, and approximately 95,000 children are murdered every year according to a UNICEF 2014 report.
About 57 percent of these global childhood homicide cases are of children between 15-19 years of age, and 20 percent are of children below 5 years. Risk is higher for boys who constitute about 70 percent of cases.
Violence affects more children than you may think.
The statistics are staggering and behind every number, there is a child.
— UNICEF Data (@UNICEFData) February 14, 2018
The homicide rate among juveniles in the United States is 3.8 per 100,000 or about six children per day, according to research by David Finkelhor” (pdf).