Caleb Whisnand Sr.
Charges against a Montgomery father will be upgraded to capital murder in the death of his infant son whose body was found buried in rural Lowndes County two days after he was reported missing.
Montgomery County Sheriff Derrick Cunningham said the autopsy on 5-week-old Caleb “C.J.” Whisnand Jr. led to the upgrade from the original charge of manslaughter.
The sheriff did not say, however, how C.J. was killed or what led them to the discovery of the boy’s remains.
“Through old fashioned police work, we were able to find this little guy,” said sheriff’s Chief Deputy Kevin Murphy.
According to court records made public Thursday, the time of the death was between 3:45 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Monday, May 10.
“Afterwards,” the affidavit states, “(Whisnand) buried the victim in a remote area.” Records state the death happened on Hunter Loop Road in Montgomery.
Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey said the arrest is just the beginning in the long road to justice.
“This case will be prosecuted by the best prosecutors in this state, and we will make sure justice will prevail for this baby,” Bailey said.
The investigation began late Monday – about 10:45 p.m. – when authorities say they received a 911 call from the Circle K on Wetumpka Highway from Caleb Whisnand Sr., 32, saying that his son was missing.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, in the early-morning hours of Tuesday, issued a missing child alert in C.J.’s disappearance.
The disappearance did not meet the criteria of an Amber Alert, mostly because there was no concrete information about a possible suspect and investigators were receiving conflicting information from the start.
The missing child alert said C.J. had been missing since Saturday, but lawmen were not made aware of it until Monday night.
On Thursday, authorities said for the first time that Whisnand told authorities the baby had been abducted from his vehicle while at the Circle K.
Authorities, however, have not released a timeline in the case, nor disclosed any other details.
“We don’t know,” the sheriff said Thursday. “We’re still trying to piece everything together. It’s hard to give you a definite answer when we don’t have definite answers.”
Whisnand and C.J.’s mother, 28-year-old Angela Gardner, took part in a press conference late Wednesday afternoon during which Whisnand told reporters, “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.”
“Please, find him please,’’ Gardner said.
Whisnand and Gardner initially said the last time they remembered seeing C.J. was Saturday night when the infant was in the bed with his parents and Gardner’s 2-year-old son in another room.
But, moments later, Gardner said she was home with her 2-year-old and the baby was with Whisnand on Monday. They provided no explanation for the difference in days, or where C.J. was between Saturday night and Monday night.
“He went to go pay gas at the gas station and realized he was gone,” Gardner said of her fiancé. “He let the police know, and me know, that he was missing.”
It was after the press conference that investigators recovered C.J.’s remains and the initial charge against Whisnand was announced.
According to Margaret Hope, C.J.’s grandmother and Gardner’s mother, the couple lived with Whisnand’s parents. Gardner was about to leave Whisnand, Hope said, “and I think that’s the reason he took the baby,” she told AL.com.
Hope said Whisnand took C.J. while Gardner was asleep Saturday night, and the family has been looking for him since then.
“She didn’t get to have her son on Mother’s Day or Monday,” Hope said. “Angela is a great mother, and she is overprotective of her kids. 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.”
Hope said the baby was found dead in a wooded area. “He knew he done killed that baby and he had to come up with some excuse,’’ Hope said.
A task force of between 50 to 60 investigators from multiple agencies worked around the clock on the investigation, authorities said.
The sheriff’s office was assisted by the FBI, ALEA, Montgomery police, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Elmore County Sheriff’s Office and the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office.
Through the joint effort between the agencies, investigative leads, and witness’ statements, the body of C.J. was recovered.
“We were joined at the hip throughout this whole investigation but that’s what it takes to be able to bring closure in cases like this,’’ Cunningham said.
Gardner, the mother, has not been charged in the crime. Asked if anyone else could face charges in the case, Cunningham said, “Right now it’s still early. We still have a lot of leads we’ve got to follow up on.”
Asked how the investigation of such a young child affected investigators, the sheriff replied, “Everybody in Montgomery knows how I love our youth and I love our community. (The youth) are 50 percent of our population and 100 percent of our future,” he said.
“We’re talking about a 5-week-old baby. That weighs on people, but we still have a job to do. Our man goal is to bring closure and justice.”
At the time of his arrest Wednesday, Whisnand was already under indictment in an unrelated case on charges of meth and heroin possession, reckless endangerment and possession of drug paraphernalia. Elmore County prosecutors on Thursday said they are seeking to revoke Whisnand’s bond in those cases.
Documents state that on June 15, 2020, Whisnand was behind the wheel of a Chevy pickup truck that a police sergeant witnessed run off the road. The sergeant turned around and was eventually able to catch up to the truck.
Whisnand veered into oncoming traffic, records state, and crossed the double yellow line, swerving at the last minute to avoid a collision.
Whisnand drove off the roadway and slammed on his brakes. Gardner was in the front seat and her child Tolouse, who was an infant then but is now 2, was in a car seat.
Whisnand told the officers he was on methamphetamine and had not slept in two to three days.
“Subject was showing the signs of still being under the influence of the drug with profuse sweating, twitching and constant movement, and he stated he was dehydrated,” the officer wrote.
Whisnand was arrested and charged with both misdemeanors and felonies, including being in possession of methamphetamine and heroin.
Records state he was also in possession of Gabapentin, and anticonvulsant and nerve pain medication used to treat seizures and pain caused by shingles.
He was released from jail on June 16, 2020. His trial on those charges is set for October.
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