Elisha McWilliams Pankey has been charged in the death of her 7-year-old son, whose body was found just before Christmas in a storage locker in Denver, Colorado. The little boy, named Caden McWilliams, had been missing for months but no alert was ever issued.
Police said Pankey, 43, turned herself in on January 2, 2019, after a warrant was issued for her arrest.
Investigators have not yet revealed how the boy died. But police have confirmed that he had been dead since at least May of 2018.
Pankey has been charged with child abuse resulting in death and abuse of a corpse.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Police Found the Child’s Body in a Storage Unit on December 23, 2018, But Did Not Immediately Share the Cause of Death
The Denver Police Department shared in a news release that they received information from the Aurora Police Department on December 23, 2018. There was a lead as to the whereabouts of a missing 7-year-old child.
Police said they were led to a self-storage facility located at 5005 East Evans Avenue. They discovered the body of little Caden inside one of the units. Officials said the cause and manner of death would be determined by the Medical Examiner and did not speculate as to how the child had died. They confirmed that the boy had been dead since May of 2018.
CBS Denver reported that no Amber Alert or endangered child alert was ever issued for Caden.
Denver police have not yet publicly verified that the dead child was Caden McWilliams. But the Denver Department of Public Safety records administrator, Mary Dulacki, confirmed Caden’s identity to the Denver Post.
2. Elisha Pankey Surrendered to Police; She Was Also Arrested on a Separate Charge of Drug Possession One Day Before Caden’s Body Was Found
Elisha Pankey, believed to be the child’s mother, turned herself in on January 2, 2019. Inmate records with the Denver Sheriff’s Department indicate that a warrant had been issued for her arrest.
Pankey was booked into the Downtown Detention Center. She faces a felony charge of “Child Abuse Resulting in Death.”
Pankey faced a judge the next day. Bond was set at $250,000. It was also revealed that Pankey has a second child, who is currently being cared for by protective services. The judge prohibited Pankey from contacting the other child.
An online search of records shows that Pankey has been arrested previously for driving violations, including a suspected drunk driving case. She does not have a history of violence.
But court records do show that Pankey had been in police custody just one day before Caden’s body was found in the storage unit. According to an affidavit, obtained by the Denver Post, an Aurora police officer was bringing medication to Pankey, who was staying in a hotel at the time. He found heroin in the room. Pankey was arrested for drug possession and drug paraphernalia. She was released on bond December 24.
3. Pankey is Charged With Child Abuse Resulting In Death
Elisha Pankey has been formally charged with “Child Abuse Resulting In Death,” which is a Class 2 Felony. Under Colorado law, the charge is described as such:
“A person commits child abuse if such person causes an injury to a child’s life or health, or permits a child to be unreasonably placed in a situation that poses a threat of injury to the child’s life or health, or engages in a continued pattern of conduct that results in malnourishment, lack of proper medical care, cruel punishment, mistreatment, or an accumulation of injuries that ultimately results in the death of a child or serious bodily injury to a child.”
The potential punishment if convicted of a Class 2 felony in Colorado is 8-24 years behind bars with a fine up to $1 million. Pankey is also charged with abuse of a corpse.
Police have not issued any statements or commented about whether Pankey could potentially be charged with murder. It’s likely that further charges could be filed once the Medical Examiner confirms how the child died.
4. Pankey’s Former Landlord Told CBS Denver That the Family Had Financial Struggles & That There Were Instances of Alleged Domestic Violence
Elisha Pankey’s former landlord, Tina Wright, spoke with CBS Denver about the family’s apparent struggles. She said Pankey and her husband sometimes struggled to pay their rent on time. They were eventually evicted from the Cherry Plaza Apartments.
Wright added that she suspected there had been instances of domestic violence inside the home.
She remembered Caden fondly, telling the TV station, “He was a sweet boy. He played. He was very quiet. He would play outside with his toys… He was so beautiful. So innocent.”
Caden McWilliams was a student at Ellis Elementary School. The school released a statement about Caden, describing him as the “sweetest boy.”
“He stood out from others from the moment he walked through the school doors every morning with a huge smile on his face. 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. Caden was a model student who was not afraid to do the right thing simply because it was the right thing to do. He worked hard and did well academically.
He was always positive, caring and lived the Ellis core value of Integrity. During recess, Caden would always notice friends who needed someone to play with and he would go to them. He was a truly kind and caring little boy who loved being at school with his teachers and his friends.”
5. Elisha Pankey’s Partner Was Also Behind Bars in Denver on an Assault Charge
Elisha Pankey’s boyfriend or husband, Leland Kyle Pankey, was also in custody at the Downtown Detention Center in Denver. He was booked December 27, 2018, on a second-degree assault charge. He has not been charged in connection to Caden McWilliam’s death.
CBS Denver referred to Leland Pankey, 39, as Elisha’s husband. The Denver Post quoted court records that described Leland as having been in a relationship with Elisha for several years. If they are married, it appears they wed somewhere other than Denver. A search of records with the Denver Office of the Clerk and Recorder does not bring up a marriage certificate.
But the public records search did reveal an April 2011 judgment from the Denver Juvenile Court that suggests Leland Pankey is either the father of Caden McWilliams or at least a guardian. The document does not contain many details; it states that the matter was in the interest of Caden B. McWilliams.
The document states that Leland Pankey owed $23, reportedly to the Denver County Department of Human Services. It appears Pankey had not paid it. The department does not have any other documents that contain Leland Pankey’s name.
We have reached out to the department to learn more. Check back for updates.