The remains of a five-week-old Alabama boy, whose disappearance this week had confounded authorities, were found on Wednesday shortly after his parents gave a press conference in which they begged for help in finding their son.
The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office said on Thursday that Caleb “CJ” Whisnand Jr.’s father, 32-year-old Caleb Michael Whisnand, will be charged with capital murder. He will be held without bond. Angela Gardner, the child’s 28-year-old mom, has not been charged with any crime.
Authorities say they received a 911 call around 10:45 p.m. Monday evening from Whisnand, who was at a Circle K convenience store along a highway outside Montgomery. The call was about a missing baby who weighed 10 pounds and was last seen in a camouflage onesie. Few details of the infant’s disappearance were made public at the time.
During their Wednesday press conference, Whisnand and Gardner did not refer to their son by name and offered conflicting accounts of what exactly happened. Whisnand repeatedly stressed that he could not recall many details about the disappearance.
“I don’t remember a lot, but I did remember I was breaking up, ya know, with the cops. If anybody’s got anything, any places that I could have gone, you know who you are,” he said, according to AL.com.
Gardner said she had been at home Monday with her 2-year-old child when Whisnand brought the five-week-old to the convenience store.
“He went to go pay gas at the gas station and realized he was gone. He let the police know, and me know, that he was missing… Please find him, please,” she said.
Asked about the last time the whole family was together, Whisnand said it was Saturday night when “we were all together sleeping.” Bizarrely, he went on to say, “And I don’t remember much.”
“It’s not easy,” Gardner chimed in. Shortly after the presser ended, little Caleb’s remains were found.
On Thursday, Montgomery County Sheriff Derrick Cunningham said that CJ’s body was found in Lowndes County on Wednesday night, about thirty minutes from where he was last seen. The discovery was made when authorities received new information shortly after Whisnand and Garland went in front of the cameras.
“We want to let the community know that we brought some closure. But we still have a lot of work to do,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham, however, didn’t say how CJ died or how he went missing. He said local and federal investigators are still piecing together a timeline of when the boy died compared to when they were alerted he was missing.
Margaret Hope, the baby’s maternal grandmother, told AL.com that the young couple lived with Whisnand’s parents and that her daughter was planning to leave.
“I think that’s the reason he took the baby,” Hope told the outlet, adding that her grandson was found in a wooden area. “He knew he done killed that baby and he had to come up with some excuse.”
“Angela is a great mother, and she is over-protective of her kids,” Hope added. “She was so happy when she gave birth. I was there when she gave birth to the baby. I can’t believe the SOB killed her baby.”
At the time of Whisnand’s arrest, authorities said he was already under indictment in an unrelated case on reckless endangerment, possession of drug paraphernalia, and meth and heroin possession. Court records show Whisnand was arrested after being pulled over in June 2020 for driving erratically. At the time of the incident, Gardner and an infant were also in the vehicle.
Sheriff Cunningham said on Thursday that it was too early to tell if drugs had a role in the infant’s death.
Capt. Trent Beasley, who is in charge of investigations at the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, said he could not explain why the couple said they were last together with their baby on Saturday.
“I can’t speak to their mental state. I don’t know where the father was at when he was answering questions,” Beasley was quoted saying by the Montgomery Advertiser.
He said the baby’s father had called 911 four minutes after the baby was last seen on surveillance footage at the gas station.
“The video image is a little grainy, but it looks to be him,” Beasley said.
On Thursday, Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey vowed to seek justice for baby CJ.
“This morning begins the long process of this case going through the criminal justice system,” he said. “This case will be prosecuted by the best prosecutors in this state and we will make sure that justice will prevail for this baby.”