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.
READ: Two buried kids and an old family ‘curse’
The defendants still facing murder charges and the death penalty are the children’s father, Elwyn Crocker Sr., Candice Crocker’s mother, Kim Wright, and Candice Crocker’s brother, Tony Wright. Prater was the boyfriend of Kim Wright.
The guilty pleas are the latest developments 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 information in the complaint was a year old. When the complaint came in, JR was apparently already buried in the backyard, while Mary was still alive.
Child welfare experts said it was a mistake to not investigate the report, and DFCS changed its policy.