Lila Pickering, a 6-year-old girl under child protective custody services because of a bitter dispute between her mother and father, is dead, the Citizen Times is reporting. Her father, Seth Pickering, 36, has been arrested and is facing a first-degree murder charge.
His estranged wife, Ashley Pickering, left the relationship over allegations of domestic abuse and was locked in a 15-month custody battle over Lila. Pickering had abducted his daughter after school hours from where she was being held in protective custody in North Carolina. When investigators found him Friday night, Lila Pickering was also found at the scene — dead.
According to Ashley, she had spoken to a child protective services worker hours before, who told her that her first-grade daughter was doing great.
“I just spoke with her case worker Friday and she said she was happy and healthy and in a great home, and they were going to work on getting her back down here.”
In the early hours of the morning, a detective had reached out to Ashley Pickering to break the painful news.
“A detective called at 2 in the morning and asked if I was Ashley Pickering, wife of Seth Willis Pickering, mother of Lila Marie Pickering, and I said ‘Yes.’ They said, ‘It is with heavy hearts we regret to inform you that your daughter is deceased and Seth’s been arrested for first-degree murder…’ What they said keeps playing in my head like a broken record.”
Lila had been approved by case workers in North Carolina to go and live with her mother. She was meant to join them Wednesday, but was abducted and allegedly killed by her father on Friday. Investigators have not revealed how the 36-year-old man tracked down his daughter, who was just a month shy of her 7th birthday.
When deputies learned that the young girl had been taken by her father, they were in the process of triggering an Amber Alert when they learned that he had been found. Capt. John Elkins of the Sheriff’s Office said Pickering was located by accident.
A couple of rangers had seen a vehicle pull outside a designated parking area at about 5:45 p.m. and approached the vehicle. They had a description of the suspect and recognized him immediately. Unfortunately, his dead daughter was in the vehicle with him.
The grandmother of the dead girl said Seth Pickering had been in a mental hospital in the days leading up to the incident. According to her, he was released early. The grandmother, in between tears, described her granddaughter as someone with a megawatt smile that lit up the whole room.
Seth Pickering recently resided in Brevard County in Florida. Ashley said it had been a nightmare trying to get her daughter back, and never in her wildest dreams did she believe that her child was ever in danger. Ashley said Seth was a doting dad and Lila worshiped the ground he walked on because she loved her father so much.
Her mother said Lila nursed dreams of being a veterinarian. She also said she was outgoing and had a good heart. Ashley explained that her daughter was a bold girl who could walk up and talk to anybody. She added that her nickname was “Rescue Ranger” because if any one fell or tripped, she would jump on her feet and want to help almost immediately.
Ashley Pickering said Lila was a miracle child because she had her while suffering a connective tissue disorder which makes carrying a pregnancy very risky and extremely dangerous, but she said her beautiful daughter defied the odds.
“I had her and she was perfect. She was happy and healthy. She had no medical problems. She was absolutely beautiful.”
[Photo by iStock]