ASHEVILLE, NC (WSPA) – A father has pled guilty to murdering his 6-year-old daughter on Blue Ridge Parkway in Sept. 2016, according to US Attorney Andrew Murray.
Seth Willis Pickering, 38, of Leicester, pleaded guilty to first degree murder of Lila Pickering.
The plea agreement provides he will receive a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
His sentencing date has not been set and he is still in federal custody.
Lila died from a punctured lung and heart after her father stabbed her in the chest, according to the medical examiner.
She was a 1st grade student at Johnston Elementary School.
The affidavit said Pickering took Lila from the home of the custodian where she had been placed temporarily by the Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services (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,” according to the report.
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 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, according to the report.
The rangers knew there were no trails, picnic areas, or camp sites in the area, so they investigated.
The report said 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, according to the report.
Lila fell to the ground and Pickering turned back toward them and raised his hands in the air, according to the Ranger.
The report says 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.
The FBI, National Parks Service and Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office investigated the murder.
Due to the fact that the crime occurred on Federal property, the FBI reviewed the case with the Assistant US Attorney and they say the case may be adopted for Federal prosecution.