Little girl found buried in backyard with missing brother was beaten, kept in a dog cage almost ’24 hours a day’ & starved until she died: Investigator

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Toward the end of her young life, a 14-year-old Georgia girl found dead and buried in her family’s backyard last year, had been kept inside a dog cage and starved nearly 24 hours a day, according to an investigator who testified during a Tuesday court hearing.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that according to investigator Abby Brown’s testimony, who testified during a preliminary court hearing at the Effingham County Superior Court, little Mary Crocker was beaten, starved, abused, and confined to a dog pen until her death last year. Authorities found Mary, along with her older brother JR Crocker,  buried in the backyard of their family’s home in December.

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

Mary’s father, Elwyn Crocker Sr., 50, and his wife, Candice Crocker, 33; her mom, 55-year-old Kim Wright; Wright’s boyfriend, Roy Anthony Prater, 55, and Kim Wright’s son, Tony Wright, 31, have been charged with felony murder and cruelty to children.

Crocker Sr. and Tony Wright were the only defendants in court Tuesday, where they learned they would not be getting bond.

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Although JR was said to have been severely abused during his short life, the testimony on Tuesday focused solely on Mary, since her family is being charged with her murder only at this time. Investigators said that unlike Mary, the boy was dead for years before they discovered him, making it more time-consuming to determine his cause of death.

Once JR’s cause of death is determined, additional charges against the suspects could follow.

Crocker Family [Photo: Facebook]
According to Brown, Mary was confined to a dog pen for so long that her joints became disfigured and she began to swell. At one point, one of the suspects allegedly duct taped the girl to a ladder to see if her joints would straighten out.

Mary wasn’t allowed to take a shower, although her family would sometimes drag the dog pen to the bathroom and spray her down. She was hardly ever fed, according to Brown, but when she was, Mary was forced to eat food mixed with rice vinegar or other bitter substances.

The dog cage was placed in the middle of the kitchen, where Mary was reportedly left nude. Authorities found a photo of Mary on her father’s cellphone. The photo showed the gaunt, pale girl locked inside the cage and clearly in need of medical attention, according to court testimony.

Brown said Mary was punished in unthinkable ways for her behavior, which in part reportedly included stealing food when she was hungry and refusing to exercise.

Crocker Sr., who once worked as Santa Claus at a Walmart store, apparently showed no emotion as he listened to Brown detail his daughter’s abuse.

Mary’s surviving brother, an 11-year-old boy with cerebral palsy, told investigators that the family instructed him to hit Mary for allegedly taking his food, Brown testified. The boy was on a special diet consisting of lactose-free food.

“He hit her with a frying pan,” Brown said.

James is now in the custody of the Department of Family and Children’s Services, although his biological mother is fighting to get custody. Mary and JR had a different mother, who has yet to speak publicly after learning of their deaths.

READ MORE: Ex of ‘Walmart Santa Claus dad’- accused of burying his children in backyard- is desperate to get her sole surviving special needs son back

Candice Crocker, Elwyn Crocker, and Kim Wright [Police Handout]
Meanwhile, at least two of the defendants deny the allegations against them. Tony Wright, who claimed he had no part in the children’s abuse or death, reportedly told police he called his aunt after he noticed Mary was missing. He said his aunt was the one who called police, which started the process of finding the deceased children.

Crocker Sr. denied having anything to do with the children’s death, although he allegedly admitted he did bury them. Yet, he said he only buried the children after his wife and Kim Wright told him the children had died, and he followed their direction on what to do with the bodies.

Prior to police finding the children’s bodies, Crocker Sr. maintained that they had left for South Carolina to be with their biological mother. Investigators determined that to be untrue, which led them to search the family’s property, where they found the children’s remains buried near the edge of the family’s backyard, in a wooded area.

Mark Wright (l) and Roy Prater (r) [Photo: Police Handout]
Brown testified that Kim Wright, Crocker Sr., and Candice Crocker at some point began sending text messages to each other as the little girl’s health began to deteriorate further. They reportedly sent messages about how the girl was doing and the things they did to her.

When Mary died, Crocker Sr. called Candice Crocker, according to Brown, and said he saw “light go out of her eyes.” Crocker Sr. then told his wife to find cement and some trash bags.

Check back with CrimeOnline as more details become available.

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