A North Carolina man has been arrested for killing his 6-year-old daughter.
Seth Pickering, 36, allegedly abducted his daughter, Lila, from child protective services Sept. 9, reports USA Today.
He had recently lived in Florida with his wife, Ashley Pickering, but took his daughter to North Carolina in 2015, and a custody battle ensued.
“My husband and I separated because he was abusive, and we were working on getting her back down here,” Ashley Pickering said. “She was in protective custody. I don’t know how he got her near her. It’s been one nightmare after another after another. For 15 months, we’ve been fighting this.”
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The mother had spoken on the telephone with a child protective services worker just hours before receiving the news of Lila’s death, and was assured that all was well. Lila was “happy and healthy and in a great home, and they were going to work on getting her back down here,” she said, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times.
Then, after midnight Ashley Pickering received a call from police, with a message that she recites from memory: “It is with heavy hearts we regret to inform you that your daughter’s deceased and Seth’s been arrested for first-degree murder.”
About an hour prior to the call, authorities learned that Lila had been taken by her father. They were in the process of triggering an Amber Alert, according to Capt. John Elkins of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office.
“We had a deputy at a home in west Buncombe County after we received a report that the father had taken the child without permission. As the deputy was there, we learned of the homicide,” he said.
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The FBI is leading the investigation, and authorities are not revealing details regarding who reported Lila missing, how her death was discovered, how she was killed, or how the suspect was found
Despite learning that her husband has been accused of killing her daughter, Ashley describes him in a positive light. “He was the most loving father and Lila worshiped the ground he walked on. She loved her daddy so much,” she said. “She would jump in his lap and smile and laugh and be so happy when he was holding her.”
Lila would have turned 7 in less than a month. The first-grader wanted to become a veterinarian, her mother said. “She would go up and talk to anybody. We used to call her Rescue Ranger, because if somebody falls or something like that on the playground, she would want to go over and help them right away.”