The Alabama man accused of killing his 5-week-old son last month blurted out an apology to the child’s mother after leading investigators to a shallow grave where Caleb “C.J.” Whisnand Jr.’s remains were buried, a law enforcement official testified in court Friday.
Caleb Michael Whisnand Sr., 32, drove detectives to the body following a bizarre May 12 press conference during which he and Angela Gardner, the child’s 28-year-old mother, pleaded for the public’s help in finding C.J. When they arrived on the scene, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Investigator John Shepherd testified at a preliminary hearing that Whisnand ran over and hugged Gardner, who was also there with police, and said, “I’m sorry.”
“He said it was an accident, he had hit his head,” Shepherd said in his testimony, according to an AL.com reporter who attended the hearing. Whisnand then asked Shepherd to “shoot him,” at which point the officer handcuffed Whisnand for his own safety.
“I do not think this was an accident,” Dr. David Rydzewski, a forensic pathologist for the state of Alabama, told the court, likening C.J.’s injuries to those seen in people who have been in a severe automobile accident or have leaped from a fifth-floor window.
In response to an interview request by The Daily Beast, Mickey McDermott, Whisnand’s defense attorney, said, “A gag order is in place, we cannot comment.”
Whisnand faces charges of reckless manslaughter and capital murder, according to jail records. The murder charge followed an autopsy that showed C.J. died from blunt force trauma to the head. Gardner has not been charged with any crime.
The investigation into the gruesome case began around 10:45 p.m. on Monday, May 10, when Whisnand called 911 from a Circle K convenience store to report that C.J. had been abducted. But Whisnand had already allegedly killed the child by then, court records state.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency quickly sent out a missing child alert to try and locate C.J. On May 12, Whisnand and Gardner held a press conference. They did not once refer to C.J. by name and gave a muddled timeline for what had transpired, saying they had last been with their son the previous Saturday, two days before Whisnand reported C.J. missing.
“I don’t remember a lot, but I did remember I was breaking up, ya know, with the cops,” Whisnand said, adding that he didn’t “remember much.” “If anybody’s got anything, any places that I could have gone, you know who you are.”
Gardner said she had been at home on Monday with her other child, who is two, when Whisnand took C.J. to the Circle K.
“He went to go pay gas at the gas station and realized he was gone,” Gardner said. “He let the police know, and me know, that he was missing… Please find him, please,” she said.
At some point after the presser ended, Whisnand led cops to C.J.’s body, Shepherd testified during the June 4 court hearing. Investigators amassed a mountain of evidence that cast doubt on Whisnand’s version of events, said Shepherd. They reviewed security video from the night in question at the Circle K, but didn’t see anyone kidnap C.J. The footage showed Whisnand arriving at the store about 20 minutes before he called 911. He also offered conflicting accounts of his whereabouts on the previous few days, telling police, variously, that he had brought C.J. along with him to work on a friend’s car over the weekend, that he had left C.J. with a friend, and that a different friend’s wife had watched C.J. while he worked on that person’s vehicle.
However, cops subpoenaed Whisnand’s cell phone records and were able to piece together his actual movements in the days before C.J. disappeared. Detectives noticed Whisnand’s phone had traveled out of the county, which he had neglected to mention in interviews. Whisnand tried to explain it away, saying he had gone on a “drug run.”
Other surveillance video showed Whisnand withdrawing money from an ATM, then later at a gas station throwing away the clothes he was wearing earlier in the day. That footage also showed Whisnand discarding a Mickey Mouse pacifier and a child’s sock, according to Shepherd, who said in court, “I felt something was amiss.”
When Whisnand was arrested for allegedly killing C.J., he was already under indictment in an unrelated case on charges of reckless endangerment, possession of drug paraphernalia, and meth and heroin possession. Whisnand’s trial in that matter is scheduled to begin Oct. 21.