Dad of boy found in Denver storage unit charged with murder

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DENVER (AP) — Colorado prosecutors on Thursday charged the father of a 7-year-old boy whose body was found encased in concrete inside a Denver storage unit with murder.

The Denver district attorney's office also charged Leland Pankey, 39, with child abuse resulting in death and tampering with a dead body. He is serving a state prison sentence on unrelated charges, and it was not clear Thursday if he has an attorney to comment on the newly filed charges in the death of his son, Caden McWilliams.

Court records also released Thursday indicate that the boy's mother cooperated with investigators as she faces charges of child abuse resulting in death and abuse of a corpse in his death. The records say Pankey and her attorneys met with investigators in March, about two months after she was charged.

The records says Elisha Pankey told police that the family moved into a hotel at the end of May 2018 and she knew her husband physically abused Caden and was not feeding the boy. Elisha Pankey also told police that her husband kept their son in a dog kennel "a few days" before he died in mid-July.

Previously released court records said Elisha Pankey told a fellow inmate that they kept the boy in the carrier overnight despite his cries of being thirsty and hot. Pankey said the boy was dead one morning and she believed he had suffocated, those records state.

The woman, who is not identified in the court records, told police that Pankey said she and her husband took the boy's body — still inside the animal carrier —to the storage unit, poured concrete over him and wrapped the carrier in plastic trash bags.

Authorities did not find McWilliams' body until December as they investigated Elisha Pankey's allegations of domestic violence against Leland Pankey. An autopsy found signs that McWilliams was severely emaciated and evidence of injuries to his head, chest and limbs, some of which showed signs of healing.

Denver District Attorney Beth McCann called the young boy's death a "truly horrific crime."

"This case has been painstaking and painful for all involved," McCann said in a statement.

Leland Pankey is due in court on June 27.

Elisha Pankey is due back in court on Tuesday. She is represented by the state public defenders' office, which bars its attorneys from commenting on individual cases.

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