Four family members — including a Walmart Santa Claus — were charged in the child abuse deaths of their two missing teenagers.
The remains of Elwyn “JR” Crocker Jr. and his sister Mary Crocker, who each were last seen at age 14, were found buried on their family’s property outside Savannah, Georgia, after a 911 tip directed sheriff’s deputies to the home, reported the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
The caller said Mary had not been seen since October, and the tipster feared she was dead.
Her older brother had disappeared in November 2016, but neither child was reported missing.
Deputies said 50-year-old Elwyn Crocker Sr. directed them to his children’s remains near his Guyton trailer home after they investigated the girl’s well-being.
A cause of death has not yet been determined, but neighbors say the children had mysterious bruises and showed other signs of abuse that were not reported.
“She would never want me to leave her,” said Daniella Gills, who rode bikes and had sleepovers with Mary. “If she went to the bathroom she would want me to go with her. She wouldn’t tell me why.”
Her father said the family kept a lock on the refrigerator, which they explained was meant to keep Mary, who was diabetic, from eating sweets.
“I feel bad because I missed something somewhere,” Gills said. “It just eats at me.”
The elder Crocker, who turned 50 on Christmas Day, had played Santa at a nearby Walmart until he was jailed Dec. 20.
His wife, Candice Crocker, who is the children’s stepmother, was also jailed, along with her mother, Kim Wright, and Wright’s partner, Roy Anthony Prater.
All of the adults have been charged with child abuse, but prosecutors said the charges could be upgraded later.
They had all moved from Rincon, where the Gills live, to a trailer in Guyton, where a new neighbor said Mary frequently worked outside as if she was afraid to go in the house.
That neighbor, Gary Bennett, said he saw the elder Crocker lingering around in the backyard where the graves were later found, but he never reported any suspicious activity because he’d had a terrible experience once calling police on some neighbors.
Rebecca Self, who has an 11-year-old son with Elwyn Crocker, said her child was taken from the home apparently unharmed into protective custody, and she believes he was not abused because he drew a monthly government check due to cerebral palsy.
She had taken Crocker to court over visitation rights after they broke up in 2008, and she believed all three children were all right until she heard the news.
“I hope he rots in hell,” Self said.