Candice Crocker pleaded guilty to torturing her stepchildren, Elwyn and Mary Crocker, whose bodies were found buried in their yard, to avoid the death penalty
Mary and Elwyn Crocker
| Credit: Effingham County Sheriff’s Office

A Georgia stepmother has pleaded guilty to murdering two children who were beaten, starved, kept in a dog crate and buried in the backyard of their family’s mobile home.

Candice Crocker pleaded guilty in the deaths of Mary Frances Crocker and Elwyn John Crocker Jr. when she appeared in court last week, Effingham County District Attorney Brian Deal said on Friday, WTGS reports.

The children lived with their father, Elwyn John Crocker, Sr., a one-time Walmart Santa Claus.

Elwyn Crocker, Sr

His son, Elwyn Crocker, Jr., went missing in 2016 when he was 14. The boy's sister went missing in October 2018 when she was the same age.

The family never reported their disappearances.

Candice Crocker was one of five family members indicted in the children’s deaths in 2019 after the bodies were discovered in the family’s yard in Guyton in December 2018.

In a plea deal reached with prosecutors, Crocker agreed to testify against three other defendants in the case.

Candace Crocker and Kimberly Wright
| Credit: Effingham County Sheriff's Office

She will be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

A fourth defendant, Roy Prater, the boyfriend of the children’s step-grandmother, Kimberly Wright, pleaded guilty to murder in February.

He was not facing the death penalty. He has not yet been sentenced, Deal said, the Savannah Morning News reports.

The other three defendants — Elwyn Crocker, Sr., the children’s biological father; Wright; and Mark Anthony Wright, Crocker’s brother — who are facing the death penalty, attended a status hearing on Friday.

Their trial is scheduled to begin in February.

According to the indictment, on multiple occasions between Jan. 1, 2018, and Oct. 28, 2018, Mary was allegedly zip-tied, starved and held in a dog crate while naked, and was beaten with different objects, the indictment says, the Savannah Morning News reported.

The family allegedly burned her with hot water and shocked her with a stun gun.

The family allegedly duct-taped her arms and legs to a ladder to try to straighten out her limbs, which had become crooked after being held in the crate for so long, Effingham County Sheriff’s investigator Abby Brown testified at a 2019 bond hearing for Crocker Sr. and Wright, the Savannah Morning News reported.

Elwyn Crocker, Sr., Candace Crocker, and Kimberly Wright allegedly beat Elwyn Jr., withheld food from him, and held him in a dog crate from Oct. 1, 2016, and Nov. 30, 2016, the indictment says.

Lawyers for the three defendants did not respond to requests for comment.