DENVER – A Colorado man was sentenced to 72 years in prison on Friday for his role in the death of his 7-year-old son who was found encased in concrete in a storage unit in December 2018.
Leland Pankey, 40, was given the maximum sentence possible since officials were unable to determine the cause of death of the little boy, forcing prosecutors to drop the murder charge. Caden McWilliams died sometime in July 2018, Fox News reported.
Pankey pleaded guilty in January to child abuse resulting in death and tampering with a deceased body after police found Caden’s body in December 2018 while investigating allegations of domestic violence leveled against him by his wife, Elisha Pankey.
According to court documents, Elisha Pankey told investigators that her husband kept their son in a dog kennel “a few days” before he died in July at a hotel where the family had been living.
An autopsy found signs that the boy was severely emaciated and evidence of injuries to his head, chest and limbs. Some of the injuries showed signs of healing. However, authorities were unable to determine the exact cause of death.
The second-grader died with a fractured skull, a broken arm and weighing only 27 pounds, the Denver Post reported.
Pankey and the boy’s mother then wrapped the Caden’s body in trashbags, sealed the bags with duct tape, entombed the child in concrete and shoved the concrete in a dog carrier before hiding it in a Denver storage unit.
“Both of those adults tortured that child,” said Joe Morales, Denver chief deputy district attorney, while asking for the maximum sentence.
Elisha Pankey previously pleaded guilty to child abuse resulting in death under a plea deal that required her cooperation with prosecutors, Fox reported. As a result, she faces between 16 and 32 years in prison when she is sentenced in April.
Pankey’s sentence will likely keep him in prison for the rest of his life, which is exactly what Caden’s extended family asked for during the sentencing hearing. They asked that Pankey never be allowed to leave prison and contact his remaining child, who was 4 years old at the time of Caden’s death in 2018.
“Please! Do not let him victimize her again,” implored Sarah Kruse, Caden’s aunt.
“She is a miracle, she is a survivor, and she is precious,” Kruse said.
Martha McWilliams, Caden’s maternal grandmother, told the judge that she helped her daughter raise Caden for the first five years of his life, when Pankey was not around. But Elisha and Leland Pankey cut McWilliams and the entire extended family out of their lives in 2016, after McWilliams stopped giving them money because she worried her daughter was addicted to painkillers.
But McWilliams continued to check on the family, she said. She would stop by their apartment and talk to the building manager. She wanted to make sure Caden and his new little sister were okay and that Caden was going to school, reported the Denver Post.
“The pain is a numbness,” McWilliams said.
All of the family members told the judge they live with a deep guilt that they didn’t know Caden was suffering, that they weren’t able to save him.
“I live with the sadness of two children who felt abandoned by their Mimi,” McWilliams said.
Pankey did not speak at the hearing, and nobody from his family spoke on his behalf.