DENVER, CO – Child abuse contributed to the death of 8-year-old Caden McWilliams, whose body was found in a Denver storage unit in December, the Denver Office of the Medical Examiner said Friday.
Caden’s body was found “wrapped in plastic bags bound with duct tape and encased in concrete inside an animal crate,” the child’s autopsy said. The crate “was secured by zip ties and bolts,” the report said.
“Child maltreatment has been determined to be a contributing factor in this case,” the coroner’s office said in a statement. “The manner of death is homicide.”
Traces of cocaine and methamphetamine were discovered in the child’s liver, the autopsy said. The boy’s body also had evidence of blunt force injuries to his head and trunk and a broken forearm, the autopsy said, some of which showed “evidence of healing.”
“Infection or sepsis” from the injuries may have been the cause of death, however, Caden may have also suffered “asphyxia, dehydration, and/or hyperthermia, which cannot be confirmed,” the pathologist’s report said.
Child health records obtained by the medical examiner’s office say that Caden was brought to the pediatrician often as a child because of trouble eating and sleeping. Medical records from well-child visits showed Caden became thinner and thinner over the last two years of medical visits dropping from a BMI in the 36th percentile down to the 13th percentile on his last doctor visit, in May of 2018.
Caden’s body was discovered in a storage unit Dec. 23, 2018, by investigators from Denver and Aurora police following up on a missing-person case.
When his mother, Elisha A. Pankey, 43, 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.
Homicide investigators believe the boy died around May 24, 2018 at the storage facility in the 5000 block of East Evans Avenue, the Denver Post reported.
The pathologist report for Caden’s autopsy said that while specific cause of death was “by undetermined means,” child maltreatment was a “significant contributing condition.”
In January, multiple media sources published an unconfirmed report that the child’s body was found encased in concrete. Both the Denver Post and Denver7, cited unnamed law enforcement sources.
Elisha Pankey had been arrested the day before Caden’s body was found, for drug possession. She was released from the Arapahoe County jail on a recognizance bond on Dec. 24, the day after her son’s body was found, the Post reported.
Elisha Pankey’s husband, Leland Pankey, is being held on a $25,000 bond for failing to appear in a domestic battery case. In November, 2017, Leland Pankey allegedly strangled his wife until she lost consciousness, an arrest affidavit said. He was charged with second-degree assault.
Leland Pankey has not been charged in the boy’s murder.
According to Leland Pankey’s arrest affidavit and a prosecutor’s reported court remarks, Caden had a sibling. Elisha and Leland Pankey were parents of two children, the reports said.
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