As Leland Pankey watched the photos of his son flash across the monitor in a Denver courtroom–where he sat in handcuffs for killing 7-year-old Caden–he showed no emotion.
Only a few minutes later, Denver District Court Judge A. Bruce Jones sentenced the 40-year-old to 72 years in prison for abusing Caden so horribly that the second-grader died with a fractured skull, a broken arm and weighing only 27 pounds. According to reports from the Denver Post, Pankey and the boy’s mother wrapped the Caden’s body in trashbags, sealed them with duct tape, entombed the child in concrete and shoved the concrete in a dog carrier before hiding it in a storage unit.
Pankey pleaded guilty to child abuse resulting in death and tampering with a deceased human body back in January. 48 years of the sentence is for the child abuse charge, while the other 24 years are for tampering. His wife, Elisha Pankey, pleaded guilty to similar charges and is set to be sentenced on April 1.
Leland Pankey’s sentence is likely to 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 specifically 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.
Sarah Kruse, Caden’s aunt, is now raising Caden’s little sister, who was so deeply traumatized by the abuse she witnessed that she spends many mornings rocking herself back and forth on the floor. The little girl is said to have fed her starving brother cereal through the gaps in a dog kennel.
Caden’s maternal grandmother, Martha McWilliams, told the judge that she helped her daughter raise Caden for the first five years of his life. At that time, Leland Pankey was not around–but Elisha and Leland cut 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.
Now, all of the family members have told the judge they live with a deep guilt that they didn’t know Caden was suffering and that they weren’t able to save him.
Leland Pankey’s sentence is the result of an investigation that began on Dec. 17, 2018, when Elisha reported that her husband abused her. During the domestic violence call, police noticed that Caden was missing, and only six days later, investigators found the chil’d body in a storage unit rented in Elisha Pankey’s name.