Bodies of 2 missing children found buried in their father’s backyard

GUYTON, Ga. — A father and three other people have been arrested after the bodies of his two children were found buried in his backyard in Georgia last week.

Effingham County sheriff’s officials tell news outlets the children’s father, 49-year-old Elwyn Crocker; stepmother, 33-year-old Candice Crocker; stepgrandmother, 50-year-old Kim Wright; and Wright’s boyfriend, 55-year-old Roy Anthony Prater, have been arrested on charges including child cruelty and concealing a death.

The children found on their father’s property were identified as 14-year-old Mary Crocker and her brother, Elwyn Crocker Jr. Mary hasn’t been seen since October, and the younger Elwyn, who would be 16 now, hasn’t been seen since November 2016.

Neither child had been reported missing to the police. Their bodies were found last Thursday after Effingham County Sheriff’s Office received a tip on Dec. 19.

“The girl, 14 year-old Mary Crocker, had not been seen in weeks and the tipster feared she was deceased,” the department said in a statement Friday.

Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie said deputies arrived at the girl’s home and were told conflicting stories about how she lived elsewhere. He says deputies searched the property and found the bodies.

“I’ve been doing this 41 years, and a while ago, I almost broke down in tears. It’s that bad,” Sheriff McDuffie said. “I don’t understand how you do children like this.”

Effingham County Coroner David Exley told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that although the bodies had been identified, determining a cause of death would be difficult and likely take weeks, particularly in the case of Elwyn Jr., who died two years ago.

All of the suspects have had their first appearance and were denied bond.

Authorities say Crocker, who had been dressing up as Santa Claus at a local Walmart, had several run-ins with Divison of Family and Children Services.

Neighbors tell WTOC the children never played with other children in the neighborhood, and that Mary was often spotted working outside in the cold, and always had “red hands.”

Sheriff McDuffie said the children may have been saved if neighbors had called police earlier.

“People hear things. People see things,” McDuffie said. “Of course, all day today, people have been coming up to us, ‘Well, I saw this and I saw that,’ but for whatever reason, they didn’t feel comfortable enough to call and let us know that.”

Authorities say they are working to get in touch with the children’s biological mother. A third child was taken from the home to the hospital, but is expected to be OK.

The Effingham County School System has released an official statement Friday regarding the status of the two teens at local public schools:

“Mary Crocker and Elwyn Crocker, Jr were both formerly enrolled in the Effingham County School System. Mary was last enrolled in our system during the 2017-2018 school year as a 6th-grade student at Effingham County Middle School. Elwyn, Jr was last enrolled through January 2014 as a 6th-grade student at South Effingham Middle School. The information on record indicates that both students transferred to a homeschool program at the time of withdrawal.”

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