BUNCOMBE COUNTY, N.C. — New details about the murder of a 6-year-old girl have been released in the U.S. Attorney’s Office criminal complaint.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating the death because it happened on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The girl’s father, 36-year-old Seth Willis Pickering, is charged with first-degree murder and could face the death penalty.
The medical examiner says the daughter, Lila Pickering, died from a stab wound to the heart and lung.
The affidavit says Pickering took Lila from the home of the custodian where she had been placed temporarily by the Buncombe County Department of Health and Human
It says Seth Pickering was only authorized to have supervised visitation with his daughter.
The custodian said “Seth, please don’t do this, they will put you in jail.”
They say Pickering just shook his head and got in the car and drove off.
Investigators were in the process of putting together an alert when two U.S. Park Rangers on routine patrol on the Blue Ridge Parkway (the “Parkway”) saw Pickering’s vehicle parked along the shoulder of the Parkway near mile marker 393.
The Rangers saw Seth and Lila Pickering walking down a steep embankment. At this point, Rangers didn’t know anything about Pickering taking his daughter or that police were looking for him.
The rangers knew there were no trails, picnic areas, or camp sites in the area, so they investigated.
They parked their vehicle and watched the man and girl from the roadway.
They say Pickering cut some underbrush and built a small fire.
Around 6:50 p.m. the Rangers started approaching Pickering, because it was an illegal campsite and fire.
As one of the Rangers approached the area, they heard Pickering tell his daughter, “Don’t worry honey, we will when the cops leave.”
When one of the Rangers got within 20-25 feet of the dad and daughter, Pickering said “Police!”
When the Ranger got closer and started to greet him, Pickering said “It’s going fine, nothing going on.”
The Ranger said Pickering lunged at the girl without warning and they heard a thud-like noise and a brief high-pitched wince from the girl.
Lila fell to the ground and Pickering turned back toward them and raised his hands in the air, according to the Ranger.
The Ranger shouted at the dad, “Did you just stab her?”
The Ranger said they didn’t recall if Pickering responded to the question.
The Rangers said they drew their guns and saw Lila lying on the ground with a knife in her chest.
They tried to save her, but couldn’t.
Rangers asked Pickering why he would kill his daughter.
Pickering told them, “Now they will never be able to take her away from me. She’s happier now… it’s what she wanted,” according to the Ranger.
Seth Pickering is currently in state custody and is expected to appear in U.S. District Court on the federal charges upon his transfer to federal custody.
Lila was a 1st grade student at Johnston Elementary School. Buncombe County Schools Superintendent Dr. Tony Baldwin says, “While many questions have yet to be answered, our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by the heartbreaking loss of this wonderful little girl.”
“We will have crisis support teams on hand Monday morning at Johnston Elementary School to help students, teachers, and staff come to grips with this senseless tragedy,” added Baldwin, “They will remain for as long as they are needed.”