SPRINGFIELD, Ga. – Mary Crocker, the 14-year-old Georgia girl found buried next to her brother in the family’s backyard last year, was forced to live in a dog cage almost 24 hours a day while starving and being beaten before she died, authorities said Tuesday.
Investigators released the disturbing new details about the alleged abuses and deaths of Mary and her brother, Elwyn “JR” Crocker Jr., who was two years older, during a preliminary court hearing. Five relatives had allegedly abused Mary as punishment for misbehaving, authorities said.
Abby Brown, an investigator on the case, testified that Mary’s confinement to a tiny dog cage nearly 24 hours a day had left her joints swollen from contorting her body to fit inside, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Relatives once duct-taped her to a ladder to see if her body would straighten out, Brown said.
The teen was allegedly starved, but when she was given food, it was spiked with pungent substances so she wouldn’t be able to swallow it, FOX5 Atlanta reported.
Her relatives, including her father, Elwyn Crocker Sr., 50, beat the teen with household objects, Tased her and bound her with zip-ties, police said. Mary’s surviving brother, James, 11, who has cerebral palsy, told authorities a relative forced him to hit his sister with a frying pan when the relative accused Mary of stealing his special lactose-free food.
Crocker Sr. was working as Santa Claus at a Walmart store at the time of his arrest in December 2018.
Brown said that a photo someone had taken of Mary shows her standing in front of the dog cage, kept in the family’s kitchen, naked, gaunt and close to death, the Journal-Constitution reported. The picture was allegedly found on her father’s cell phone.
Charged with felony murder in January were Crocker Sr., along with Candice Crocker, 33, the children’s stepmother; Mark Wright, 31, Crocker’s brother; Kimberly Wright, 50, Crocker’s mother; Roy Anthony Prater, 55; Wright’s boyfriend. Moreover, all five were also charged with child cruelty.
No one has yet been charged in the death of JR as the medical examiner hasn’t finished examining his body, authorities said.
In December 2018, Effingham County deputies discovered Mary’s body buried in the family’s backyard in Guyton. While searching the yard, they found the body of her brother. Mary hadn’t been seen since October 2018, while JR hadn’t been seen since 2016.
Neither child was ever reported missing, FOX5 Atlanta reported.
In 2017, the state’s Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) declined to investigate an allegation of abuse at the home because the complaint was a year old, the Journal-Constitution reported. The agency faced criticism for its decision and has since vowed a policy change.