UPDATE [2 p.m.]: A fourth person has been arrested in connection with the discovery of two children’s bodies buried behind their Effingham County family home. Roy Anthony Prater, 55, is facing charges of concealing a death, cruelty to children in the first degree and possession of a controlled substance. Prater is the boyfriend of Kim Wright, the grandmother of the children who also faces charges in the case.
Autopsies are underway Friday and a cause of death has not yet been determined.
ORIGINAL STORY: A South Georgia father, stepmother and grandmother were arrested Thursday after the bodies of two children believed missing were found buried at their Effingham County home.
Deputies were first called to the home on Rosebud Place late Wednesday night to investigate the disappearance of 14-year-old Mary Crocker. The girl had not been seen in months, and a tipster feared she may be dead, Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie told reporters during a press conference Thursday.
Initially, deputies were told the girl had gone to live with her mother in South Carolina.
After receiving some information from Mary’s father, 49-year-old Elwyn Crocker Sr., investigators started digging. They uncovered what they believe to be the girl’s body, along with the body of a boy. McDuffie said preliminary information indicated the boy was Mary’s brother, Elwyn Crocker Jr., who was 14 when he was last seen in November 2016.
“I’ve been doing this 41 years, and a while ago I almost broke down in tears,” McDuffie told reporters, his voice shaking. “It’s that bad. I cannot understand how you do children like this. It’s horrible.”
Elwyn Crocker, his wife Candice Crocker, 33, and her 50-year-old mother, Kim Wright, were arrested on charges of concealing a death and cruelty to children in the first degree. Another child, Elwyn Crocker’s son with another woman, was removed from the home and is being looked over at a local hospital.
Authorities are not releasing his name or age but said he has special needs. He appears to be OK, McDuffie said.
An autopsy on the two bodies was scheduled to be performed by the GBI. The state agency was also expected to make a positive identification.
“This is an ongoing investigation,” McDuffie said. “More charges could be forthcoming.”
Neither child had ever been officially reported missing to authorities. The 911 caller told deputies Mary Crocker was last seen in October.
At one point, the children were enrolled in Effingham County schools, but Mary Crocker was recently being homeschooled, authorities said.
While investigators were on scene Thursday, McDuffie said they were met by concerned neighbors who said they thought something may be wrong in the Crocker home. He lamented that authorities were not alerted sooner.
“If we can just encourage those folks to give us a call,” he said, “it could lead us to maybe not having this conclusion.”
McDuffie said he was not aware of the family’s prior history with law enforcement. The three suspects are cooperating with authorities.
Deputies were working to get in touch with the children’s biological mother Friday. It is believed she is homeless.
—Please return to AJC.com for updates.
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