Child services battle ends with 6-year-old's death

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A Hernando County grandmother says child protective services in North Carolina failed her family after police say 6-year-old Lila Pickering died at the hands of her father Friday night.

36-year-old Seth Pickering is facing a first-degree murder charge in Buncombe County, North Carolina. Investigators found him Friday night near a vehicle along Blue Ridge Parkway in Asheville. They found Lila Pickering dead at the scene.

Investigators have not revealed how Lila died.

Cindy Dabill, of Spring Hill, told FOX 13 Lila was in protective custody in North Carolina. Her daughter Ashley Pickering had been in a bitter custody battle over Lila for the past 15 months after Ashley left to escape an abusive relationship with Seth Pickering.

Dabill says she and her daughter had just been approved by case workers in North Carolina to bring Lila back to live with them in Florida. The family planned to go get her Wednesday.

But the family will never bring her home. Investigators have not said how Seth Pickering tracked Lila to her location in protective custody.

FOX Carolina reports authorities were in the process of putting out an amber alert for Lila and Seth Pickering when they found Lila’s body.

A call from North Carolina broke the horrifying news to Lila’s mother, Ashley.

“She was sitting on the step, rocking back and forth and screaming at the top of her lungs, ‘mom, bring Lila back! It's a lie! It's a lie! It's not true!’” Dabill said.

Now, Lila’s mom is in the hospital after a breakdown and possible heart issues relating to her daughter's death. The girl's family in Spring Hill is seeking answers from North Carolina authorities. They want Lila’s death to be a call to action so this doesn't happen to any other child.

“It's too late now for Lila, but hopefully, through this, some law can change or something can change where the kids are gonna be safe,” Dabill said.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help with Lila's funeral costs.