Legal filing hints at potential lawsuit in Crocker murder case

Published: Sep. 12, 2022 at 1:21 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - It’s been nearly four years since law enforcement found the bodies of Mary and Elwyn Jr. Crocker buried in their own backyard. As the capital murder case against their father and multiple family members continues, WTOC Investigates has learned about new court action involving the Crocker children.

A legal petition pending in the Effingham County Probate Court could pave the way for a wrongful death lawsuit against the social workers who did not investigate child abuse claims.

Legal arguments are expected on Wednesday during a scheduled hearing in the case.

The probate case began in March of this year when an Effingham County resident named Sophia Pfohl petitioned the court for the letters of administrator over the estates Mary and Elwin Jr., according to the probate court filing. Usually, an estate is created when someone dies without a will.

An estate for a minor child is a legal way for a court-appointed adult to manage and protect any inheritance in the interest of the child until the child turns 18.

Savannah-based attorney Brent Savage, Sr., who represent Pfohl, laid out their intentions in an Aug. 23 filing in the probate court cases.

If named the administrator, Pfohl intends to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against individual state case workers with the Effingham County Department of Family and Children Services, also known as DFCS. The allegations stem from a 2017 child abuse claim involving Elwyn Jr.

Abuse claims not investigated

As WTOC Investigates previously reported, the abuse claim began with an anonymous call to DFCS.

A child, who was in the family’s home a year earlier, told her school counselor she saw Elwyn Jr.’s step-grandmother, Kim Wright, beat and whip him. The girl told the counselor after learning about the signs of abuse in class. DFCS did not investigate the call because of the length of time that had passed since the apparent whipping and the lack of an apparent, immediate threat, according to a copy of the case file.

The DFCS case workers noted in the report the “safety threshold has not been crossed.”

In a 2019 interview with WTOC Investigates, the DFCS region director backed up the decision.

“You definitely want to look back and see if there’s anything we need to do to strengthen our policies. Not saying we did anything wrong at that time because we did follow our agency’s policies.”

Pfohl’s attorney said the case workers’ failure to investigate “led to the torture and murder of these two young people.”

On Dec. 20 2018, law enforcement discovered the bodies of 13-year-old Mary and 14-year-old Elwyn Jr. buried in the back yard of the family home in Rincon, Ga. DFCS removed Mary and Elwyn Jr’s brother from the home and placed him in the foster care system where he remains today.

Their father Elwyn Sr. is among several family members charged with malice murder. The state is seeking the death penalty.

In the probate case, DFCS is represented by the Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr’s Office, which is against Pfohl being named as administrator over the estates. DFCS’ attorneys say she’s not eligible to bring a potential wrongful death claim against the case workers.

In a motion to strike DFCS from the case, Pfohl’s attorney says DFCS has no legal standing and is attempting to “stop a lawsuit against the individual case agents.”

Pfohl’s connection to the Crockers

Pfohl has no connection to the Crocker family, but is a property owner in Effingham County and an advocate for victim’s rights, said her attorney Brent Savage Sr.

In the Aug. 23 court filing, he said the children’s father Elwyn Sr. gave up his parental rights due to the “cruel treatment of the child” and “is therefore not a ‘parent’ within the meaning of the wrongful death statute.”

“The mother of the two minor children, Linda Denney, is similarly precluded from bringing a claim for the wrongful death of her children because due to her abandonment of them.”

The Georgia Attorney General’s Office did not respond to WTOC’s request for comment about the case.

Although, a hearing in the case is set for Sept. 14, it will be closed to the public.

When WTOC requested to have a camera in the courtroom, Effingham County Probate Judge Beth Rahn Mosley denied the request and said the hearing will be closed to protect the rights of the child involved.

The judge has since sealed the case file from the public.