Mother who let son die in Aurora hotel room, encased body in cement, gets 32 years

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AURORA |  A woman who admitted to helping her husband submerge the remains of their young son in concrete inside of a plastic animal cage two years ago has been sentenced to several decades in state prison.

A Denver District Court judge on Wednesday sentenced Elisha Pankey, 45, to 32 years in prison and five years of parole for the death of her 7-year-old son in the summer of 2018, according to the Denver District Attorney’s Office. Pankey pleaded guilty to the felony charge of child abuse resulting in death last year.

Judge Bruce Jones handed Pankey the maximum sentence possible under state law.

This photo provided by the Denver Police shows Elisha Pankey, 43, who was arrested Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019, in the death of a 7-year-old boy believed to be her son who was found dead in a storage unit last month. Police say she is being held for investigation of child abuse resulting in death.(Denver Police via AP)

Investigators eventually accused Pankey and her husband, Leland Pankey, of abusing their son, Caden McWilliams, after speaking with a woman who shared a jail cell with Elisha in December 2018. Elisha was briefly incarcerated in the same pod as the woman after Aurora detectives found heroin with her name on it and levied a drug charge against her.

The informant told a detective with the Denver Police Department that Elisha had admitted to forcing McWilliams to stay in an animal crate until he died in an Aurora hotel room two summers ago.

The woman told authorities that Elisha admitted to ignoring the boy’s pleas for water in July 2018. Though the boy cried out that he was thirsty, Elisha said “she just stayed in bed,” according to an arrest affidavit that was unsealed three months after it was written.

Elisha and Leland woke up the next morning to find McWilliams dead in the animal carrier, according to the arrest document. They then loaded the container into their car, filled it with concrete with McWilliams’ body still inside and left it in a Denver storage facility.

Police eventually found the container inside the facility on East Evans Avenue and located McWilliams’ body after multiple cadaver dogs signaled in front of the vessel.

Pictured: Leland Pankey. Photo provided by the Colorado Department of Corrections.

McWilliams died of unknown causes, though he was likely malnourished when he died, according to court documents. Several of his bones were broken.

Leland Pankey was sentenced to 72 years in prison for his role in his son’s death in February. He is currently imprisoned at the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility in Ordway, according to state records.

Elisha’s sentencing marks the conclusion of the lurid case, Denver District Attorney Beth McCann said in a statement.

“The horrific death of Caden McWilliams shocked the conscience and was incomprehensible to the people of Denver,” McCann said.

Elisha has yet to be transferred to a state prison and remains incarcerated at the Denver County Jail, according to county records.