‘Walmart Santa’ & his family arrested after 2 long-missing kids found buried in their backyard
Mary Crocker and Elwyn Crocker, Jr. were just 14 when they were last seen in the 2,000-person town of Guyton, and authorities are at a loss as to how their disappearances failed to raise alarms within the close-knit farming community.
The bodies were discovered last Thursday after a 911 call from a tipster concerned about Mary’s whereabouts sent Effingham County sheriff’s deputies to the home of Elwyn Crocker Sr. and family. While several members of the household claimed the girl had run away to live with her mother in South Carolina, their stories did not add up, and deputies spent the night digging up the Crockers’ backyard.
Preliminary autopsy results indicate that Mary was in the ground for “perhaps a few months,” while Elwyn Crocker Jr. had been buried “for maybe as long as two years,” according to Effingham County coroner David Exley, who lamented that the amount of time elapsed since the burials could complicate efforts to determine the causes of the children’s deaths. These dates correspond to the last local sightings of the children – Mary hadn’t been seen since October, while Elwyn was last spotted in 2016.
The entire Crocker family – Elwyn and wife Candice, Candice’s mother Kim Wright and Wright’s boyfriend Roy Anthony Prater – have been charged with first-degree child cruelty and concealing a death. They will likely face further charges and all are being held without bail. Prater was also charged with possession of a controlled substance.
Elwyn Sr. most recently worked as a Walmart Santa Claus in the neighboring town of Rincon, much to the horror of his neighbors. The dead children’s mother is believed to be homeless in South Carolina, and authorities are still trying to reach her. A special-needs child, believed to be the biological offspring of Elwyn and Candice, was removed from the home by authorities and hospitalized as a precaution.
The Crocker home had previously come to the attention of the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services, though the agency has refused comment and the sheriff’s department was unaware of any cases. Effingham County Sheriff’s Office stated their only interactions with the household involved complaints about their pit bulls. While both children had been enrolled in Effingham County schools, they were withdrawn for home-schooling before they went missing.
Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie said neighbors only approached the investigators with their concerns something was “wrong” in the home when they were already on the scene and digging, and implored those with similar concerns to come forward sooner. “If we can just encourage those folks to give us a call, it could lead us to maybe not having this conclusion,” he said. The family reportedly kept to themselves, though neighbors recall seeing Mary working in the yard frequently and classmates say her hands were “red” from overwork.
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