Initially, deputies were told the girl had gone to live with her mother in South Carolina.
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After receiving some information from Mary's father, 49-year-old Elwyn Crocker, investigators started digging. They uncovered what they believe to be the girl's body, along with the body of a boy. McDuffie said preliminary information indicated the boy was Mary's brother, Elwyn Crocker Jr., who was 14 when he was last seen in November 2016.
“I’ve been doing this 41 years, and a while ago I almost broke down in tears,” McDuffie told reporters, his voice shaking. “It’s that bad. I cannot understand how you do children like this. It’s horrible.”
Crocker, his wife Candace Crocker, 33, and her 50-year-old mother, Kim Wright, were arrested on charges of concealing a death and cruelty to children in the first degree. Another child, the Crockers' biological son, was removed from the home and is being looked over at a local hospital.
Authorities are not releasing his name or age but said he has cerebral palsy and his health was in question. He appears to be OK, McDuffie said.
An autopsy on the two bodies was scheduled to be performed by the GBI. The state agency was also expected to make a positive identification.
“This is an ongoing investigation,” McDuffie said. “More charges could be forthcoming.”
Neither child had ever been officially reported missing to authorities. The 911 caller told deputies Mary Crocker was last seen in October.
Some of the children in the home may have been homeschooled, county coroner David Exley said.
While investigators were on scene Thursday, McDuffie said they were met by concerned neighbors who said they thought something may be wrong in the Crocker home. He lamented that authorities were not alerted sooner.
“If we can just encourage those folks to give us a call,” he said, “it could lead us to maybe not having this conclusion.”
McDuffie said he was not aware of the family’s prior history with law enforcement. The three suspects are cooperating with authorities.
Deputies were working to get in touch with the children’s biological mother Thursday.
—Please visit AJC.com for updates.