ASHEVILLE – Seth Willis Pickering, 38, of Leicester, pleaded guilty Monday to first-degree murder for killing his 6-year-old daughter, Lila Pickering, within the boundaries of the Blue Ridge Parkway, announced R. Andrew Murray, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.

“Our hearts go out to Lila’s family. No action by the criminal justice system can soothe the pain of their loss,” said U.S. Attorney Murray in announcing today’s guilty plea. “This is an outcome reached after consideration of all the facts and circumstances of this case. By allowing the defendant to plead guilty and serve a life sentence without the possibility of parole, we will spare the family the trauma of a lengthy trial and decades of appeals. We hope this resolution brings some comfort to the family of Lila Pickering.”

According to published reports, Pickering, who was not supposed to have unsupervised visits with the child, took her from her temporary custodian, setting off a search for the child. Pickering stabbed his daughter in the heart as two park rangers approached a campsite on the Parkway.

Seth Pickering appeared before U.S. District Judge Max. O. Cogburn, Jr. and admitted to killing his daughter on Sept. 9, 2016, within the boundaries of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Pickering further admitted that he killed Lila Pickering, who had not attained the age of 18 years and was under his care and control, willfully, deliberately, maliciously and with premeditation. Pickering’s plea agreement, which the court has accepted, provides that the defendant will receive a sentence of life in prison without any possibility of parole for his crime.

Pickering remains in federal custody. A sentencing date has not been set.

In making Monday’s announcement U.S. Attorney Murray thanks the FBI, the National Park Service and the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office for their investigation of the case.