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Bodies of two missing children found buried behind their home, four family members arrested

A dad, stepmother and grandmother were arrested on Thursday after the bodies of two missing children were found buried in the backyard of their home in Effingham County, Georgia. On Friday, authorities arrested another adult in connections with the deaths.

WTOC11 reports that 14-year-old Mary Crocker had not been seen since October, prompting authorities to perform a welfare check at her Guyton home, off of Rosebud Place in the Azalea Point subdivision, on Wednesday night. The girl’s family told authorities that Mary went to South Carolina to live with her biological mother, but tips provided to investigators led them to believe the little girl was deceased.

Throughout Thursday, investigators searched for the girl, leading them to the discovery of two bodies, both children, according to Effingham County Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie.

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“Deputies realized this information was false and not accurate. Information from Elwyn Crocker led investigators to search the grounds, and two bodies were discovered,” McDuffie said.

Investigators found Mary’s body buried on the family’s property, behind the home in a wooded area. They also found the body of Elwyn Crocker, Jr., Mary’s older brother. Elwyn, 14 at the time had been missing since 2016. The boy had been buried for years, according to authorities, and would have been 16 if alive today.

The children were previously enrolled in school with the Effingham County School System. School administrators indicated both children were withdrawn to attend homeschool. Elwyn Jr. last enrollment, according to the school district, was in 2014, while Mary’s last enrollment was during the 2017-2018 school year.

The children’s father, Elwyn Crocker, 49, along with their stepmother, Candice Crocker, 33, were arrested and charged with cruelty to children in the first degree and  concealing the death of another. The children’s step-grandmother, Kim Wright, was also arrested and faces the same charges as the stepmother.

On Friday, authorities arrested 55-year-old Roy Anthony Prater and charged him with possession of a scheduled or controlled substance, child cruelty in the first degree and concealing the death of another.

Sheriff McDuffie said the children may have been saved if neighbors had called police earlier. According to WSB-TV, “concerned neighbors” approached authorities when they arrived to the home on Wednesday night and said they were worried about the kids. However, police didn’t receive any prior complaints.

“People hear things. People see things. Of course, all day today, people have been coming up to us, ‘Well, I saw this and I saw that,’ but for whatever reason, they didn’t feel comfortable enough to call and let us know that,” McDuffie said.

“If we can just encourage those folks to give us a call, it could lead us to maybe not having this conclusion.”

Neighbors told WTOC11 that the children never played with other kids in the neighborhood. The little girl was often seen out working in her yard but never opened up to anyone. Kids at school reportedly said Mary always had red hands.

“Other kids said at school, they could tell stuff was wrong with her hands. They were red,” neighbor Gary Bennett told the outlet. “That was from being out in the yard out there most of the time working, doing stuff from the time she got off that bus until they would go in at night. Then she would go to school and kids would see her and ask what was wrong and she wouldn’t ever say anything. She wouldn’t open up to anybody.”

Authorities indicated they’re working to get in touch with the two children’s biological mother. The children’s exact cause of death is pending autopsies.

A third child in the home was taken the hospital for a medical checkup, but expected to be OK.

All four suspects remain behind bars. Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.

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[Feature Photo: Mary Crocker and Elwyn Crocker Jr./Handout]