SPRINGFIELD, Ga. — WARNING: This article contains graphic and disturbing information about child cruelty allegations.
A 14-year-old girl was allegedly starved and forced to live in a cage made for a dog before she died and was buried in her family's back yard, authorities said Tuesday.
Mary Crocker kept losing weight, and her body contorted, conforming to the tight confines of the bars until her joints became swollen, a detective testified Tuesday. Someone took a picture of her in front of the cage, which served as her bedroom and was planted in the kitchen of the family’s home not far from the country courthouse outside Savannah. She was nude and looked gaunt, near death — until one day in late October, she died.
The allegations are among the startling evidence authorities revealed Tuesday in Effingham County Superior Court during a hearing related to the death of Mary Crocker and her brother, Elwyn "JR" Crocker Jr., who was two years older. The siblings' bodies were found buried behind the family's double-wide trailer outside the rural city of Guyton, near Savannah, on Dec. 20 by sheriff's deputies. Neither had ever been reported missing.
Sheriff's investigator Abby Brown said five relatives all allegedly participated in abusing the girl, who was beaten, starved and given food spiked with pungent substances with the hope that she wouldn't eat. It was all said to be punishment for various misbehavior: refusing to exercise, failing to do chores and stealing food.
The kids’ father, Elywn Crocker Sr., and step-uncle, Tony Wright, were in court for a preliminary hearing Tuesday. Like the other three relatives charged in the case, they face counts of child cruelty and felony murder.
Wright’s attorney said he maintains his innocence.
Brown said the father admitted to taking part in the abuse at the direction of his wife, Candice Crocker, and her mother, Kim Wright, who are also among the suspects.
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