Authorities: Diary leads to alleged killer of missing teen

A Forest Park teen’s diary her mother found months after the girl's death helped lead police to her accused killer, authorities said.

Clayton County police have charged Marshae O’Brian Hickman with murdering 15-year-old Candice Parchment and concealing her body in the woods near her home in April 2010.

She had sneaked out of her house in the early morning hours of April 28, 2010 and allegedly ended up with Hickman, one of two boys who, according to a Clayton County police arrest warrant affidavit obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, tried to rape the girl three months before her death.

“ I told her, ‘If you don’t go to the police and tell them, [those boys] will probably try to do it to somebody else, or do it to you,’” Candice's mother, Caffian Hyatt, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, noting that her daughter initially wouldn’t identify the culprits of the attempted sexual assault. “And they’ll probably kill someone.”

Just weeks after the warning, Candice was gone.

The girl’s remains were found seven months later on Nov. 24, hidden beneath a mattress in a wooded area behind a Forest Park apartment on Sylvia Drive.

Friday, Hickman, already in jail on a burglary charge, will make his first court appearance to answer to the new accusations.

“I need to know why he did it,” Hyatt said Wednesday in an exclusive interview with the AJC. “I need to know what he said to her to make her leave her warm bed and to make her go out to meet him.”

Diary of a rape attempt

From the time Hyatt reported Candice missing, she refused to believe her daughter had run away from home.

“I know my daughter,” Hyatt said. “She wouldn’t want to be on the street like that.”

The Clayton County police missing persons report said Candice was “having social problems in school,” and Hyatt pointed to a night in January 2010, when her daughter escaped an abandoned house where two teenage boys allegedly had tried to rape her.

Candice was gone late one January night when Hyatt returned home from work. And the teen didn’t answer her phone after subsequent calls from her mother, Hyatt said.

“Then, on one call, she did pick up the phone and it sounded like somebody tried to wrestle the phone from her,” Hyatt said.

Hyatt said she and her fiancé went looking for Candice, stopping in front of a number of abandoned houses on their street.

Suddenly, Candice appeared from behind the car, Hyatt said, and told her mother two boys had tried to rape her. She refused to name the boys involved, however.

“I told her to write their names down,” Hyatt said.

According to the police affidavit, Candice eventually wrote two names on a note pad for her mother, but Hyatt said she couldn’t find the paper and could remember only one of the names after Candice disappeared.

“She never did tell me everything that happened,” Hyatt said. “I only found out when I found her diary three weeks ago, and read it.”

She immediately took the diary to police.

Candice’s diary entry date from Jan. 5, 2010, as spelled out in the affidavit, outlined a frightening scene inside that abandoned house.

Police records said the diary reported one of the teens -- who recently admitted to police his role in the rape attempt, but hasn't been charged or implicated in the murder -- and Hickman trapped the girl in a dark, cold room, trying to remove her pants.

“[The other boy] hit her in the head with a rake and [Hickman] blocked the door,” according to the affidavit.

“[He] grabbed her and choked her. She begged for him to let her go but he would not.

“They unzipped her pants and her phone rang. She was able to answer the phone and spoke to her mother.”

The report said Candice put up a fight when the boys tried to take away the phone.

“I had to find her,” Hyatt said, recalling her desperation that night. “And when we drove past that abandoned home, I thought I saw somebody inside.”

The affidavit said the boys panicked when Hyatt pulled up outside the house, and Candice was able to get away.

Moments later, police said Candice received a text message: “Please don’t tell, I will pay you $100.”

Police said the message blamed Hickman's compatriot, then a 16-year-old, saying the teen had threatened to kill the texter’s grandmother.

“He had a gun,” the affidavit said the next text read. “Please don’t say anything.”

Death and disappearance

Court records provide a startling account of what happened after Candice disappeared, and raise more questions as to Hickman’s alleged motive.

Police believe they were together at some point on a wooded trail behind the apartment complex at 482 Sylvia Drive in Forest Park – just two blocks from where Candice lived with her mother.

An autopsy showed evidence that Candice had been stabbed, according to the police affidavit.

But Hickman, a 6-foot-tall,  250-pound teen, admitted only to having strangled the petite girl, the affidavit said.

“He stated that he placed his arm around her shoulders and was trying to speak with her,” the affidavit reads. “He stated that he then placed her in a position where his arm was around her neck. He squeezed tightly and kept his arm there until she fell limp.”

Hickman told police he checked for a pulse and found none. Then the record said he dragged the dead girl’s body off the trail and found the mattress.

From the time Candice disappeared, police records show that Hickman – or possibly someone working with him – apparently made every effort to cover his trail.

Text messages were sent to Hyatt from Candice’s cell phone within days of the disappearance, police said, telling her the girl had left the state and trying to calm the worried mother.

“He texted my phone about 3 o’clock the Wednesday she went missing and said, ‘I’m in Tennessee,’” Hyatt said. “And the Thursday night after she disappeared, I got a text again that said, ‘am OK.’”

In interviews with police, the affidavit says Hickman was dodgy at first, telling investigators he had encountered Candice in the woods around the time she disappeared in April 2010, and that he had moved the mattress from the trail so he could ride his bike through.

Both assertions, investigators said, were ploys to explain away Hickman’s DNA being found on Candice’s body or on the mattress.

And Hickman said he threw away a pocket knife he had when questioned about possibly stabbing her, according to police.

Police said Hickman eventually told investigators that he kept tabs on Candice’s body shortly after her death, looking periodically to make certain her body hadn’t been discovered.

“He … went back to the scene the next morning,” the affidavit reads. “It was at this time he observed her feet hanging from under the mattress and he tucked her feet back under.”

Even after he moved away from the area, Hickman returned, investigators said.

“After Thanksgiving of 2010, he went back to the scene of the murder and noticed that the mattress and Candice Parchment’s body were no longer there,” the affidavit says.

The affidavit says Hickman’s accomplice in the attempted rape told police Hickman approached him in December 2010 asking if he wanted to kill Candice.

The teen told investigators that Hickman threatened to stab him at one point and to stab, beat and choke Candice.

All cursed out

Asked if she thought her daughter had some kind of relationship with Hickman or with the other boy , Hyatt was adamant that Candice couldn’t have had any strongly binding ties to the boys.

“Absolutely not,” she said. “She said in her diary that those boys weren’t her friends.”

Hyatt finds herself asking why, then, would her daughter leave the house to possibly knowingly go to one of these boys.

“If they weren’t her friends, why would she go meet them?” Hyatt asked herself.

The Candice she said she knew was strong-willed, but not rebellious. Soft-spoken, but not a push-over.

The Forest Park freshman was the younger of Hyatt’s two daughters and the one who moved from Jamaica to join her mom in 2008.

She was outgoing, a math tutor at Long Cane Middle School,  in the LaGrange High marching band before transferring to Forest Park, and in ROTC.

“She was such a beautiful soul,” Hyatt said of Candice. “For somebody to do that to her and throw her away like she is trash, I can’t understand.”

Candice made friends easily, and sometimes, Hyatt worried, too easily.

“She was a regular Ms. Sunshine,” Hyatt said. “But she was naïve. I said to her on numerous occasions that not everybody was her friends.”

The last time Candice was home, she went into her mother’s room and asked to watch a movie together, Hyatt said.

It was after midnight on the morning of April 28, and Hyatt was more worried about her teen getting her rest.

“I said, ‘If you watch a movie, you won’t be able to get up for school in the morning,’” Hyatt said.

Then she admitted to often having second-guessed her parental instincts since that night.

“Maybe if I had watched that movie with her, she would’ve fallen asleep in my bed,” Hyatt said. “But who knows. If she didn’t go then, maybe she would’ve gone another time.”

When she gave investigators Candice’s diary, they told her that bringing charges against Hickman could bring the family closure.

But the mother said after more than a year of wondering, worrying, hoping, then finally resolving that her daughter was lost, it’s difficult to find a silver lining.

“I’m all cursed out,” Hyatt said. “There will never be closure. I would have loved to see her dreams come true.”