Investigator details punishments given to Effingham children in murder case

Updated: Mar. 5, 2019 at 11:36 PM EST
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EFFINGHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - Investigators described in great detail events leading up to the death of 14-year old Mary Crocker.

Mary was just one child found buried behind the family home in Guyton last December. She was last seen in October of 2018, when she was 14-years-old.

The Effingham County Sheriff’s Office also discovered the body of her brother Elwyn Crocker Jr. He was last seen in 2016. Investigators say a missing child report was never filed.

Five people, including family members are facing murder charges in Mary’s death. In Effingham County court Tuesday, a judge denied bond for Mark Anthony Wright, who is charged with cruelty to children and murder. Wright lived at the same home as the Crocker family and is the brother of Mary and Elwyn Jr., stepmother. He faces charges of cruelty to children and murder.

The biological father - Elwyn Crocker, the stepmother - Candice Crocker, the step-grandmother, Kim Wright, and her boyfriend - Roy Anthony Prater, are all charged with murder, concealing the death of another, and cruelty to children in the first degree.

Effingham County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Abby Brown gave a glimpse into what they believe 14-year-old Mary Crocker’s life was like before finding her and her brother buried in her father’s backyard. Brown says Elwyn Crocker Sr. confessed to putting his daughter in a cage.

“He did admit that Mary Crocker was kept in a dog kennel, naked in the kitchen, in the common area of the house. She was zip tied so that she would not get out,” Investigator Brown said.

Elwyn Crocker Senior, Kim Wright, and Roy Prater all admitted to investigators they abused Mary. Mark Anthony Wright - also known as Tony - says he didn’t know of anything.

Along with being starved and tased, investigators believe Mary was severely beaten.

“She was hit with speaker wire, guitar wire, fan belts from cars."

Family members told investigators the abuse was Mary’s punishment for not exercising, not doing her chores, and stealing food.

“They would pick up the kennel and they would tote it into the bathroom, and they would just hose her in the kennel down, and that’s how she was bathed," Brown said. “She was having food withheld from her as punishment. We also learned through our investigation that they would do things to her food such as putting rice vinegar in it and so forth to make it taste bad in hopes that she would not eat it.”

Investigators believe Mary’s abuse lasted for some time. Brown testified that in pictures, Mary’s body was malnourished and emaciated.

“Mr. Prater indicated that they got a pool ladder from outside and the duct taped Mary to the ladder in order for her joints to be straightened.”

“During our investigation, we believe the abuse has been going on for quite some time, Brown said. “We have found during this investigation that, we believe, that it just got worse over time."

Investigator Brown says when she interviewed Wright back in December following the discovery of the bodies, he told her why he called his aunt, who then called police asking for a welfare check at the Rosebud Place home.

“He was in his bedroom and he heard some arguing,” Brown said. “He went to the kitchen to get a glass of water, and he heard something about Mary being deceased, and come to think of it, he has not seen Mary since October.”

Wright told the investigator he thought the argument was between his mother, Kim Wright, and Elwyn Crocker, Sr. Brown also testified that Elwyn Crocker, Sr. originally told law enforcement that he had taken his daughter, Mary Crocker, to see her biological mother in South Carolina, but later changed his story.

“After some discussion, he advised us that Mary was in fact deceased, and that she was buried in the backyard at 402 Rosebud Place,” Brown said.

When Wright asked for bond, his attorney, Martha Hall, called several family members to the stand as well as Wright’s boss, so the judge could hear that her client would have a place to stay and work if bond was granted.

“He went to law enforcement and told what he knew about the case, which is why what happened has been discovered,” Hall said.

Ultimately, once both the prosecutor and Wright’s defense concluded, the judge denied bond.

Autopsies are still pending for both children. Investigators say Mary died on Oct. 28, 2018.

Before Candice Crocker lawyered up, she told investigators Elwyn Crocker, Sr. told her to go buy garbage bags and cement the day Mary died.

“She was at work and Mr. Crocker called her and told her deceased and that he watched the light go out of her eyes."

No dates for the next hearings have been set yet, but we’ll be sure to continue following this case for you closely. The case against Elwyn Crocker, Sr. will go through to a grand jury.

Investigators say a third child - with special needs - is still in the state’s custody.

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