A section of the Blue Ridge Parkway was shut down as the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted an investigation into a homicide on Friday night.
An FBI agent confirmed the Blue Ridge Parkway was shut down between Brevard Road and Hendersonville Road. The roadblock was allowing forensics to preserve evidence, according to an FBI spokesperson.
The investigation area spanned an approximate two-mile radius, officials said. The National Parks Service and the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office assisted in the investigation.
The FBI said 36-year-old Seth Willis Pickering is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the case. The victim is his 6-year-old daughter, Lila Pickering, an FBI agent confirmed.
Lila suffered a stab wound to the heart, according to the FBI.
Officials with the FBI shared that the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office had gotten a report that the victim was missing, and that while deputies were taking the report and preparing to issue an Amber Alert, they were notified by by the National Parks Service of the homicide at Blue Ridge Parkway.
The FBI reported that National Parks officials had located a suspicious vehicle at Blue Ridge Parkway. It was then that rangers discovered little Lila Pickering and her father, the FBI said.
An FBI agent confirmed that the section of the Blue Ridge Parkway was reopened shortly after the investigation concluded which was around 1 a.m. Saturday.
The grandmother of the 6-year-old victim said Seth Pickering is mentally unstable and was in a mental ward leading up to the incident. She shared that the family believes he was released from the ward too early.
“It is still a mystery how Lila got into his custody after school on Friday. The family doesn’t understand that either. They were notified at 2 a.m. that Lila was ‘deceased’ over the phone,” said her grandmother.
FOX Carolina spoke with Lila’s mother, Ashley Pickering, who said she left Seth Pickering in May of 2015 because he was abusing her. Frightened, Lila’s mother said she fled to Florida to be with her family.
Lila’s mother said that while her husband abused her, he’d never harmed their daughter in the past.
Months after fleeing her abusive relationship with Seth Pickering, Lila’s mother said she discovered her daughter had been placed into the hands of Child Protective Services. She said she was never notified.
Ashley Pickering says she was in Florida trying to get custody of Lila, and her mother and sister had attempted to file for emergency custody of her child.
Lila’s mother says Lila was staying with a foster family, and that on Friday, after Lila was picked up from school, she was abducted from the home some time around 5:45 p.m.
Lila Pickering’s grandmother said that she and Lila’s mother had planned to pick up the 6-year-old in a week to take her back to Florida. She remembered Lila fondly.
“Her smile lit up a room,” Lila’s grandmother said. “She was one – it didn’t matter what your mood was, she could make you smile.”
Pickering was booked into the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office at about 10 p.m. Friday. He will go before a judge on Monday at 9:30 a.m.
Lila was a student at Johnston Elementary in Buncombe County. The Buncombe County School District issued a statement about the incident:
“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, Lila Pickering” said BCS Superintendent Dr. Tony Baldwin. “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. They will remain for as long as they are needed.”
– Buncombe County School District
Lila’s grandmother says she doesn’t want other families to go through what her own family is dealing with right now.
“It’s too late for Lila but hopefully through this some law can change or something can change where kids are gonna be safe,” she said.
Lila’s mother says she wants to see laws change nationwide so that no one has to hear “It’s out of our jurisdiction.”
She said she plans to come to Asheville to sign her daughter’s death certificate.
The FBI says an investigation is ongoing, and that because the crime occurred on federal property, the FBI is reviewing the case along with the AUSA, and the case may become eligible for Federal prosecution.
Ashley Pickering shared that Lila’s autopsy is scheduled for Monday, September 12.
A GoFundMe account has been set up to cover Lila’s funeral costs which can be found by clicking here.
We have reached out to Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office about the case but they could not offer any comments on it.
Seth Pickering went before a judge on Monday and his charges were read to him. Pickering requested a public defender and the judge said it would have to be one who is a specialist in capital punishment cases.
Pickering is being held in the Buncombe County Detention Center without bond.
Click here to access the the family Go Fund Me account set up to help with funeral costs.