A Georgia man who had custody of his three children is behind bars after police discovered his two oldest kids deceased and buried behind their Effingham County home last Thursday. The mother of the youngest and only surviving child is now fighting to get custody of him, and claims her ex only kept the child alive to live off of boy’s disability money.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, a third child in the home of Elwyn Crocker, 49, was taken into the custody of the Georgia Department of Family and Children’s Services after his older siblings, Mary Crocker, 14, and Elwyn Crocker, Jr., who disappeared two years ago at age 14, were found deceased and buried behind their father’s home last week, in a wooded area inside the property line.
The youngest child, an 11-year-old boy named James, has cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy. He hasn’t seen his mother, Rebecca Self, of South Carolina, since 2009. He’s been living with his father for years, and according to Self, Crocker manipulated the system to gain custody of her son, then moved to different homes numerous times and hid the boy each time she tried to contact him.
“He kept me and the other mother away from our kids and kept moving where we couldn’t see them or take him to court,” Self told CrimeOnline. “Once we found him to have him served, he moved. He conned people to think we was the bad parents and not him. The mother of the two kids was paying child support.”
The suspect, along with his wife, Candice Crocker, were arrested and charged with cruelty to children in the first degree and concealing the death of another after the two children were found. 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. According to authorities, Prater is Wright’s boyfriend.
Self is now desperate to get in contact with her son. DFCS reportedly asked Self to take a DNA test to ensure she was indeed the mother.
“The dss [sic] still has him. They [are] telling me he’s OK but now they want me to do a DNA to make sure I’m his real mom, and I took all paperwork stating that child belongs to me. I don’t need a DNA test. I’ve got the medical records!”
In the meantime, Self bought numerous Christmas items for James, to make up for all of the years she couldn’t see him. She’s hoping to find an attorney who can assist her in getting custodial rights of the boy.
When questioned whether Self felt Crocker was capable of burying his own children in his backyard, she told CrimeOnline she “wouldn’t put it past him” and that the only reason her son wasn’t harmed is because Crocker likely lived off of the boy’s SSI disability checks.
“My child probably don’t have good clothes or shoes etc. because of him. He knew what he was doing to them kids and letting his wife and her mother treat those kids [that way]. He was a father, he could’ve saved them but didn’t so he should get charges for that.”
The Discovery of the Children
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 last 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.
Self said she’s been trying to get in contact with the two oldest children’s mother, but so far hasn’t been able to reach her.
Throughout Thursday, investigators searched for the girl, leading them to the discovery of two bodies, both children, according to Effingham County Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie.
“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.’s last enrollment, according to the school district, was in 2014, while Mary’s last enrollment was during the 2017-2018 school year.
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.”
All four suspects remain behind bars. Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.
[Feature Photo: Mary Crocker and Elwyn Crocker Jr./Handout]