ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP/WSPA) – A North Carolina man will end his life in prison after pleading guilty to fatally stabbing his 6-year-old daughter as national park rangers approached rather than give up custody of the girl.
Federal prosecutors said Seth Pickering pleaded guilty Friday to first-degree murder for killing his daughter in September 2016. Two park rangers said he stabbed Lila Pickering as they walked toward him along the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is part of the National Park System.
The 38-year-old from Leicester took his daughter from the home of a custodial family, who had cared for the first-grader for a month after Lila was removed from her father’s home. The girl’s mother lived in Florida.
Pickering’s plea agreement states that he will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The medical examiner says the daughter, Lila Pickering, died from a stab wound to the heart and lung.
The affidavit says the abduction began on Sept. 9, 2016, when Pickering took Lila from the home of the custodian where she had been placed temporarily by the Buncombe County DHHS.
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 Seth Pickering just shook his head and got in the car and drove off.
Investigators were in the process of putting together an alert for Lila Pickering when two U.S. Park Rangers on routine patrol on the Blue Ridge Parkway saw Pickering’s vehicle parked along the shoulder of the Parkway near mile marker 393.
The Rangers saw a 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 campsites 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.
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