"It's what she wanted." That's how police say Seth Pickering justified allegedly killing his own 6-year-old daughter in front of park rangers in North Carolina on Friday. Two National Park Service rangers saw Pickering, 36, building a campfire with his daughter, Lila, off the Blue Ridge Parkway around 6:50pm and approached to investigate. "Nothing going on," Pickering said, according to a police complaint, per the Washington Post. Then, suddenly, he lunged at his daughter, who fell to the ground with a knife in her chest, police say. "Now they will never be able to take her away from me," Pickering allegedly told a ranger. "She's happier now … It's what she wanted." Lila, whose heart and lung were pierced, died at the scene, reports WLOS.
About 90 minutes earlier, Pickering had taken Lila without permission during a supervised visit with temporary caregivers she was living with amid a custody battle, police say. Pickering's estranged wife, who lives in Florida, says Lila had been placed in the home because Pickering hit another woman, but she never expected him to hurt their daughter, per the Asheville Citizen-Times. Police say Pickering told detectives Lila "made me promise that they would never take her away from me again … I knew as soon as [the rangers] showed up, they would take her away from me." Officers say the knife in Lila's chest matched one missing from a knife block in Pickering's home, per the Citizen-Times. He's now charged with murder.