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Three defendants in Crocker case in court for status hearing

Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 4:38 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 15, 2021 at 5:31 PM EDT
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EFFINGHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - Nearly a year since they were last in court, three of the defendants in the Crocker case were back before a judge.

With more than 200 motions filed, there’s still months worth of work before this case goes to trial.

“I’ve been doing this 41 years, and a while ago I almost broke down in tears. It’s that bad. I don’t understand how you do children like this,” said Effingham County Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie back in 2018.

It’s a case that stunned and horrified the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry. This December will mark three years since the bodies of Mary Crocker and Elywn Crocker Junior were found in the backyard of their Effingham County home.

The five people charged in the case all have a family connection to the kids. For the first time in months, three of the defendants were back in front of judge.

Elwyn Crocker Senior, Kim Wright and Mark Wright were in court Thursday for a status hearing. All three face murder charges with a potential punishment of the death penalty.

You may remember the other two in the case, Roy Prater and Candice Crocker, have both entered guilty pleas. Neither will face the death penalty when they are sentenced. Both have also agreed to testify when this case goes to trial.

For the next few months, the prosecution and defense will work through pre-trial motions filed earlier this year by each defendant, and there are a lot of them.

Between the three defendants, Elywn Crocker Senior, Kim Wright and Mark Wright, more than 200 pre-trial motions were filed. Not all of those will necessarily be heard by the presiding judge though, as some might be resolved by the state and defense before reaching that point. One of the big things hashed out in court Thursday was a schedule of when each defendant’s pre-trial motions will be considered.

Beginning August 27th, the presiding judge will hear motions that attorneys weren’t able to resolve amongst themselves.

Elwyn Crocker Senior’s will be first beginning at the end of August, then from that point on every four weeks the judge will meet with prosecutors and defense attorneys to work through the motion list. All of this is expected though, especially given the amount of discovery and overall magnitude of the case.

Judge Gates Peed gave his estimation in court Thursday of when a trial could begin.

“I would like to be in a position to have a jury in place in the first quarter of 2022. Like I said, that might be overly optimistic, or it might not be,” said Judge Peed.

All three defendants are being held in Effingham County right now. In court the only time they spoke was when asked about their access to their respective attorneys.

As they work toward a trial, it could begin more than three years after the bodies of Elwyn Crocker Junior and his sister Mary Crocker were found in the back yard of their Effingham County home.

A few months after arrests were made in the case, an Effingham County Sheriff’s Office investigator took the stand during a bond hearing detailing some of the abuse Mary Crocker was subjected to before her death.

“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,” said Abby Brown, ECSO Investigator, March 2019. “She was hit with speaker wire, guitar wire, fan belts from cars.”

In February of 2020, Elwyn Crocker Senior, Candice Crocker, Kim Wright and Mark Wright were re-arraigned after the state decided to pursue the death penalty for the four defendants.

Last fall we learned that Candice Crocker, plead guilty to murder and will serve life in prison without the possibility of parole. She also agreed to testify in any upcoming trials.

State legislators passed the Crocker Bill in 2019 that aims to cut down on child abuse. It prevents any parents from removing their children from the school system without a good reason. The parents of Mary and Elwyn Crocker withdrew the two from public school.

The Crocker parents failed to file the required Declaration of Intent to homeschool with the Georgia State Department of Education. This made it harder for people to recognize the children were missing.

Now, Georgia parents who wish to homeschool must get official documentation from the State Department of Education.

Here is an interactive map showing how the victims and defendants are connected, as well as the charges the defendants face:

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