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2 plead guilty in deaths of children buried behind Ga. home

By Joshua Sharpe, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

(CNT) City News Talk #atlanta-ga

Two of five defendants pleaded guilty Friday in the deaths of two South Georgia teens who were found buried behind their mobile home.

Candace Crocker, the stepmother, pleaded guilty to the murders of Mary Crocker and her brother, Elwyn “JR” Crocker Jr., who were found in December 2018 in shallow graves near a dog pen in Effingham County, according to The Savannah Morning News. Crocker was sentenced to life without parole, escaping the death penalty. Roy Prater, the only defendant who hadn’t been facing the death penalty, pleaded guilty to murder and hasn’t been sentenced.

The two are expected to testify against their co-defendants who pleaded not guilty, The Morning News reported.

Authorities have said they believe the siblings were both 14 when they went missing two years apart, JR in 2016, Mary in 2018. Authorities have said the siblings were beaten, starved and forced to live in a cage.

The defendants still facing murder charges and the death penalty are the children’s father, Elwyn Crocker Sr., Candice Crocker’s mother, Kim Wright, and Candice Crocker’s brother, Tony Wright. Prater was the boyfriend of Kim Wright.

The guilty pleas are the latest developments in a case that has drawn national attention and led to sharp criticism of the state Division of Family and Children Services. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in January 2019 that DFCS declined in 2017 to investigate an allegation of abuse at the home because the information in the complaint was a year old. When the complaint came in, JR was apparently already buried in the backyard, while Mary was still alive.

Child welfare experts said it was a mistake to not investigate the report, and DFCS changed its policy.