A girl who once knew a Georgia boy, who was found buried in his own backyard last month, apparently witnessed him getting beat with a belt for over an hour, and despite a report made to the Department of Children and Families Services (DFCS), nothing was done to protect him.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Elwyn Crocker Sr. and every adult living in a home in Guyton, Georgia, are behind bars after after Mary Crocker, 14, and Elwyn “JR” Crocker, who disappeared two years ago at age 14, were found deceased and buried in the backyard of the residence, in a wooded area inside the property line, in December.
According to court documents obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, JR was the recipient of a belt beating that left welts across his legs. A girl who witnessed the abuse told her teachers at school about the incident in 2017, around a year after it reportedly happened. The girl came forward after she watched a school video about child abuse.
The little girl reportedly claimed that the beating was dealt out by Kim Wright, JR’s step-grandmother, who’s behind bars in connection with both JR’s death and Mary’s death. Wright allegedly hit JR with a belt for around “10 to 20 minutes,” then asked the girl how many times JR should get hit for stealing. Scared, the girl spouted off a random number. The beating the continued for around an hour.
The girl said JR’s screamed in pain but Wright told him to stop crying. Wright later took JR and the girl back to a trailer he shared with his dad, Crocker Sr., in Rincon, where Wright forced him to “drop his pants” and show the belt welt marks on his legs.
JR later told the girl the beating was his own fault, then apologized for screaming so loudly, according to court documents.
After the girl reported the incident, the school turned the case over to DFCS, where a social worker apparently made the decision to not act on the allegation since by that time it had become “historical.” It’s something DFCS interim director Tom Rawlings stands behind, stating that, “given what the intake person knew at the time, I can’t fault her.”
Yet, this wasn’t the first time DFCS had been notified about possible abuse in the home. In March 2012, police arrived to Wright’s residence in Effingham County after someone spotted JR at a Goodwill store with marks across his face. Crocker Sr. and his wife, Candice Crocker, were living with her mother, Wright, and brother, Tony Wright, at the time after moving to Georgia from South Carolina.
According to Candice Crocker, her brother Tony Wright hit JR across the face for misbehaving, after Crocker Sr. gave them permission to “discipline” the boy. Police arrested Tony Wright and ordered him to stay away from the boy. The family later moved to their own home, but later returned to live with Kim Wright in Guyton, where the children’s bodies were ultimately found.
It’s unclear whether DFCS workers connected the 2012 report with the 2017 report.
According to a former neighbor, who knew the family when they lived in a trailer at the Brothers Keepers trailer home park off of 9th Street in Rincon, the trouble intensified when Candice Crocker started having Kim Wright, and her brother, Mark Wright II, visit them more often.
Former neighbor Marvin Gills told the outlet that his own daughter, Daniella, was friends with Mary, and after the Wrights started coming around, Mary would show up to play with Daniella with marks on her. In one instance, Mary had purple hands. Mary explained she got the marks from swimming. In another instance, Daniella reportedly saw Kim Wright hit Mary in the back of head.
“She would never want me to leave her. If she went to the bathroom she would want me to go with her,” Daniella said. “She wouldn’t tell me why.”
Gills told the outlet that the family kept a lock on refrigerator to keep Mary, a diabetic, her from getting sweets. He also said he remembered both kids as being “awesome,” despite the stepmother’s family members constantly complaining about their behavior. He also heard the family would force JR to sleep in the bathtub for “being bad.”
“I feel bad because I missed something somewhere,” Gills said. “It just eats at me.”
Eventually, the family relocated to double-wide trailer on Rosebud Place in Guyton in 2016, where they moved in with Kim Wright and her boyfriend, Roy Prater, and Mark Wright. JR was last seen in 2016 but authorities didn’t find the boy until 2018, when a concerned citizen contacted police after Mary withdrew from school at the Effingham County School System and hadn’t been seen in weeks.
Court documents indicate that JR was a troubled boy, mostly because he allegedly had anger issues and didn’t have many friends. Gary Bennett, a neighbor who lived next door to the family off of Rosebud Place, said he couldn’t remember ever seeing JR, not even once.
Bennett did, however, spot Mary on several occasions, outside doing yard work for hours. He said she was “rail thin,” looked scared and younger than her 14 years, and always wore old, tattered clothing. Bennett regrets not calling 911 and reporting what he saw. He said he thought Mary likely knew her brother was dead and was scared to come forward about the abuse she reportedly endured.
“I honestly think that little girl knew.”
Bennett stated he remembered seeing Crocker lingering around the area where authorities would eventually find the two children, though the elderly neighbor had no idea at the time that the kids were buried there. On December 20, authorities dug both Mary’s and JR’s bodies up and sent them to the state medical examiner. An autopsy is still pending and given the length of time JR was buried, it could take weeks or months before the results are ready.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, authorities arrested Crocker Sr., 50, along with their stepmother, Candice Crocker, 33, shortly after discovering the children’s bodies. Both were charged with cruelty to children in the first degree and concealing the death of another. Police also arrested Kim Wright, who faces faces the same charges.
Kim Wright’s boyfriend, Prater, 55, was arrested a few days later and charged with possession of a scheduled or controlled substance, child cruelty in the first degree and concealing the death of another. In January, authorities arrested Mark Wright, 31, and charged him with cruelty to children, the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office (ECSO) reported.
“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.”
Mary and JR’s mother has not made public comment on the matter. Self said she tried to reach her as well but has not had any luck.
Meanwhile, authorities continue to investigate the case, WSAV reports. According to ECSO spokesperson, Gena Sullivan, a neighbor reported seeing Crocker with a shovel around the area his children were found at. She is urging anyone who may have saw or heard something to come forward.
“If you saw someone in the back digging, if you saw a little girl wandering around, anything. Anything that you thought might have been a little strange at the time, but now you realize– it could be very pertinent to this case.”
Anyone with any information is urged to contact authorities at 912-754-3449.
The story continues to develop. Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.
[Feature Photo: Mary Crocker and Elwyn Crocker Jr./Handout]