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Cause of death a mystery for kids found buried in South Georgia

As expected by authorities, autopsies have confirmed the identities of two children found buried in their family’s backyard in Effingham County, though many questions remain about the deaths, coroner David Exley said Monday.

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“The cause and manner of death is still pending,” he said, adding it could take weeks.

The trouble, he said, is partly that Mary Crocker and Elwyn Crocker Jr. had been buried so long ago — Mary for perhaps a few months, Elwyn for maybe as long as two years. The remains of the siblings, who were both 14 years old when they were last seen but hadn’t been reported missing, were discovered Thursday in the rural town of Guyton by the Effingham Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies went to the house after a tipster called 911 to express concern regarding the whereabouts of the girl. An interview with the father, Elwyn Crocker Sr., revealed information that sent deputies to check the backyard for the bodies.

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The father, who turns 50 on Christmas and until recently played Santa at a nearby Walmart in Rincon, has been charged with child cruelty and concealing a death. The same charges have also been filed against his wife, Candice Crocker, 33, her mother, Kim Wright, 50, and Wright’s boyfriend, Roy Anthony Prater, 55. All lived in the home and could face additional charges, authorities have said. They remain in the county jail without bond.

Elwyn Crocker Sr. (Effingham County Sheriff’s Office)

Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Gena Sullivan said deputies had only ever been called to the home for complaints about a couple of pit bulls, but they have now been told the family was reported in the past to the Division of Family and Children Services. The agency declined to comment, as it doesn’t speak about particular cases. The Crocker children had been enrolled in Effingham County schools but were withdrawn for home school before they were last seen, Savannah TV station WTOC reported.

The deaths have shaken the town, which is an old farming community, home to fewer than 2,000 people.

“This is a very unusual crime, especially in this area, a good, close-knit community,” said the coroner. “Many people cannot believe this happened.”

Authorities haven’t revealed whether they have been able to contact a woman believed to be the children’s mom in South Carolina.

From left: Candice Crocker and Kim Wright  (Effingham County Sheriff’s Office)

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