Brittany Locklear and her Mom.
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Brittany Lynn Locklear: Bus Stop Abduction
Posted: Mar 27, 2007
Updated: Sep 24, 2007
Raeford -- Hoke County — HOKE COUNTY: Brittany Locklear hadn’t been standing at the bus stop at the end of her driveway outside Raeford, Hoke County, for five minutes before she was abducted. Her mother, Connie, usually waited with her, but on this overcast morning in January, 1998, she went inside for a moment to use the bathroom. When she looked outside her living room window, her 5-year-old daughter was gone. She figured the bus had come until neighbors knocked on her door in a panic.
“They believed Brittany had been kidnapped,” Connie said. “So I got my father-in-law to come and take me to the schoolhouse because I didn’t believe it.”
She said she didn’t want to make a fool of herself at the sheriff’s department. When Connie found no sign of her daughter at the school, she called police. A massive manhunt ensued over the next several hours, producing no more than Brittany’s book bag and some of her clothes.
Several neighbors saw it happen from about 200 yards away, and based on their accounts, police began a frantic search for the brown truck they thought the assailant was driving.
Police found Brittany’s naked, lifeless body the next day in a drainage ditch a few miles from her house. She had been raped, and then drowned. Police thought it probably happened shortly after she was taken.
The Hoke County Sheriff’s Office called in the State Bureau of Investigation, and from the outset, the investigation moved at a breakneck pace.
“I know in the first week we got close to somewhere between five and 700 leads,” said SBI Agent Jay Tilley, now retired but one of the original investigators on the case. “We were operating 24 hours a day.”
Investigators canvassed the area, focusing on anyone with a pick-up truck. A year passed without any significant leads.
Frustrated, officials formed a cold case task force around the year anniversary, hoping fresh eyes on the case would lead to the break they needed. They re-interviewed witnesses, and were shocked to find that even the description of the perpetrator’s truck didn’t match from one witness to the next. With little else to go on, they focused on sex offenders in the area and took DNA samples from them. No match.
The sheriff’s department turned their eyes towards Brittany’s family, asking Connie, her husband at the time, Charles, and her father-in-law, James Stevens, to submit to a lie detector test.
They focused on James, and at one point spread pictures of the murdered child before him in the hope he would confess.
“He tried to make me tell him I was the one that hurt that baby,” James said of former Sheriff Jim Davis. “And God knows, I ain’t never hurt no baby.”
Five years after the young girl was murdered, an unrelated arrest leads investigators to believe they may have the case solved. A Fort Bragg soldier was taken into custody on a robbery charge; as police were searching his locker, they found pictures of Brittany. There were unconfirmed reports the man participated in the search for the young girl.
Although the man still hasn’t been totally eliminated as a suspect in the eyes of current Sheriff Hubert Peterkin, he said that a closer look at the man led police to believe he likely wasn’t responsible for the girl’s murder.
The sheriff is certain, rather, that the girl was killed by someone who knew her “very well.”
Nine years have passed since Brittany’s murder, and investigators feel no closer to solving the crime than they were in the first few days after it happened. Opinions vary, but a look at the psychology of the murder reveals a chilling predator that terrorizes innocent victims without conscience or self-control.
The only thread of hope is that Brittany’s murderer probably was familiar with the area. Maybe one day someone will remember something suspicious and decide to come forward.
“I’ve got this picture of some monster who preys on children,” Agent Tilley said. “It’s not going to be that obvious by looking at him or talking to that person, but deep inside them there’s this monster. And this monster came out when they kidnapped Brittany.”