ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The North Carolina man charged with fatally stabbing his 6-year-old daughter while park rangers approached plans to plead not guilty to a murder charge, his attorney said in federal court.
The Asheville Citizen-Times reported (http://avlne.ws/2dJj9RW) that attorney Mary Ellen Coleman said Seth Pickering, 36, also told a federal magistrate judge Wednesday that her client wants a jury trial.
Pickering also faces a state first-degree murder charge in the death of Lila, who was stabbed Sept. 9 on federal land near the Blue Ridge Parkway. Two park rangers have said Pickering stabbed Lila as they were walking toward Pickering to question him.
His initial appearance in federal court came one day after a grand jury indicted him, citing several factors that would allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty. Federal prosecutors haven’t said if they will do so.
District Attorney Todd Williams said he plans to leave the state murder charge in place until the federal case against Pickering is resolved or until federal prosecutors advise him to dismiss the charge.
Lila was in protective custody for a month when her father took her from the home Sept. 9 over the objections of her temporary caretaker.
The first-grader previously lived with Pickering, who was allowed to see his daughter in supervised visits. It’s unclear why social workers with Buncombe County’s Department of Health and Human Services removed Lila from her father’s care and placed her in the home of a Johnston Elementary classmate.
Lila’s mother, who is also Pickering’s estranged wife, lives in Florida.
Before an Amber Alert could be issued in Lila’s disappearance, two National Park Service rangers spotted a car parked in a grassy area near the Blue Ridge Parkway, and saw a man and child down a steep embankment. Shortly after one ranger greeted him, the father lunged toward his daughter without warning, stabbing her in the heart and a lung, according to a deposition.
“Now they will never be able to take her away from me,” Pickering late told a ranger, according to the court record.
Pickering’s next appearance in front of a U.S. magistrate judge is scheduled Dec. 5. His next appearance in Buncombe County District Court was scheduled for Nov. 30.
He’s being held at the Buncombe County jail.
Information from: The Asheville Citizen-Times, http://www.citizen-times.com