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

State to seek death penalty in Effingham child killings

Prosecutors have filed notice that they intend to seek the death penalty for four of five defendants accused in the deaths of young two South Georgia teens found buried behind their home, the state capitol defender’s office confirmed Thursday.

The bodies of Mary Crocker and her brother, Elwyn “JR” Crocker Jr., were found in December 2018 in shallow graves near a dog pen in Effingham County, some 30 miles from Savannah. Authorities have said they believe the siblings were both 14 when they went missing two years apart, JR in 2016, Mary in 2018. Authorities have said the siblings were beaten, starved and forced to live in a cage.

Authorities believe they found the bodies of 14-year-old Mary Crocker (left) and her brother Elwyn Crocker, Jr., who would have been 16, buried behind their family home in Effingham County. Elwyn was last seen in November 2016.

News of the potential death sentences is the latest development in a case that has drawn national attention and led to sharp criticism of the state Division of Family and Children Services. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in January 2019 that DFCS declined in 2017 to investigate an allegation of abuse at the home because the complaint was a year old. At the time of the complaint, JR was apparently already buried in the back yard, while Mary was still alive. Child welfare experts said it was a mistake to not investigate the report, and DFCS vowed a policy change.

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The defendants facing murder charges and death are the children’s father, Elwyn Crocker Sr., his wife, Candice Crocker, Candice Crocker’s mother, Kim Wright, and Candice Crocker’s brother, Tony Wright. Kim Wright’s boyfriend, Roy Prater, also has been charged with murder, but prosecutors haven’t filed a notice to seek the death penalty in that case.

Previously, investigators said all five defendants participated in abusing the siblings.

All five pleaded not guilty last year. The four who now face death sentences are set to appear for an arraignment hearing on an updated indictment Feb. 19.

If the defendants end up facing trial for their lives, theirs would be a rare death penalty trial in Georgia, where capital punishment has become less and less common as attitudes shift and life without parole becomes more common.

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