The father of a boy whose body was found encased in concrete inside a storage unit in Denver, Colorado, in December 2018 was sentenced to 72 years in prison on Friday, authorities said.
Leland Pankey, 40, was sentenced after he pleaded guilty to child abuse resulting in death and tampering with a deceased human in the death of his son, Caden McWilliams.
Gruesome murder scene
Caden's body was found encased in cement in a dog carrier in a storage unit in southeast Denver during an investigation involving allegations of domestic violence that Leland Pankey's wife, Elisha Pankey, made against him on December 23, 2018.
Autopsy results revealed Caden's body was severely emaciated and showed injuries to his head, chest, and limbs. Other injuries in the boy's body showed signs of healing. However, authorities were not able to determine the cause of his death, according to the Associated Press.
In Leland Pankey's sentencing, a slide show of Caden's pictures were shown. He was "who family, classmates and teachers remembered as a caring boy who loved dinosaurs and tinkering," District Attorney Beth McCann was quoted as saying.
A murder charge against Leland was dropped as investigators could not find the boy's cause of death. Officials said they avoided holding a trial that would have featured gruesome images and re-traumatised Caden's relatives.
Caden's mother faces 32 years in prison for her son's abuse
Court documents said Elisha Pankey had told officials that her husband had kept Caden in a kennel for "a few days" before he died in July 2018. The family was staying at a hotel then.
Elisha Pankey had pleaded guilty to child abuse resulting in death in August 2019 under a plea agreement that required her cooperation with prosecutors. She is expected to face 16-32 years in prison and will be sentenced on April 1.
McCann has called Caden's case one of the most horrific that the district attorney's office has ever seen. "Caden loved to tinker and figure out how things worked, and his family believes he would likely have been an engineer if he was given the chance to reach adulthood," McCann said.