DENVER (CBS4) - A missing 7-year-old boy was found dead in a storage unit in Denver just before Christmas. Now Caden's mother, 43-year-old Elisha Pankey, is being held for investigation of child abuse resulting in death.
She appeared in a Denver courtroom Thursday afternoon.
"When I saw the news, I balled my fist, and I cried, 'Oh my God, how can you do this? How dare you hurt that little boy?'" said Tina Wright, Pankey's former landlord. "He was so beautiful. So, innocent."
Wright said she was aware of financial issues Pankey's family was experiencing. She said she was often giving them extra time to pay their rent.
Wright also said she knew of alleged domestic disputes that took place in the apartment, and elsewhere, between Pankey and her husband. However, Wright did not expect the violence would ever place Caden as a victim.
"She changed from this outgoing person, to this hermit who just wanted to stay in her house," Wright said.
On Dec. 23, police were led to a storage unit at 5005 East Evans Avenue. Inside, officers found the body of a child. No Amber Alert was ever issued for a missing child in trouble.
Pankey turned herself in to Denver police on Wednesday. CBS4 has confirmed she is the mother of the boy but the body has not been officially identified by Denver's coroner. Investigators have not released the cause of death or manner of death.
Court records show Pankey was arrested for possession of heroin on Dec. 22, the day before the body was found.
Wright, and others at the Cherry Plaza Apartments remember when Pankey lived there. She said, before the family was evicted, she remembered Caden riding his scooter and visiting office staff often.
"He was a sweet boy. He played. He was very quiet. He would play outside with his toys. You would talk to him, he would talk to you," Wright said. "You would give something to him, and he would say, 'Thank you, Miss Tina.'"
Bond for Pankey was set at $250,000. Her next court appearance was scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 9.
"I just want justice for him," Wright said.
Police are asking anyone with information regarding Pankey or her 7-year-old son to please contact Metro Denver Crime Stoppers at 720-913-STOP (7867).
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