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One Year Later, Brittany Locklear's Murder Still Haunts Hoke County

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RAEFORD, N.C., JANUARY 7, 1999 — One year ago , 5-year-old Brittany Locklear was abducted from her Hoke County bus stop. Her body was found the next day in a drainage ditch.

Despite a year-long intensive manhunt for her killer, investigators say they are no closer to solving the case than they were the day of the crime.

Hers is an adorable face many will never forget. Brittany Locklear's murder touched the lives of just about everyone who heard the story. Her room has not been touched since the day she disappeared.

Brittany's mother, Connie Chavis, says it serves as a memorial and a reminder that the killer still walks the streets.

"This man has been free for a year today," Chavis said. "I don't know how he's eating. I don't know how he's sleeping, but I wish he would go ahead and confess."

Thursday six state investigators spent most of their time working the case, but admittedly have made little progress. SBI officials say their efforts to catch the killer have been hampered by authorities who originally handled the case.

"The timing of the release of some information and the information itself, I think has hurt the investigation, and we're now having to try to recover from that," says FBI agent Fred McKinney.

Former Hoke County sheriff Wayne Byrd knows he has been criticized, but insists he worked hand in hand with FBI agents.

"Even when we did our news briefings, we'd sit down and went over the things we were going to talk about so that there would not be any mix-up," Byrd said.

With the picture of the slain 5-year-old held next to her heart, Chavis remembered her beloved daughter four months after the crime, and the pain she felt when she learned Brittany had been raped and drowned.

"She was so big in the casket, balled up and water getting in her lungs," Chavis said. "She was so big. I had never seen her that big. She died with a sad face. It would have been different if I'd gone into the bedroom and she'd naturally died, or she'd been sick or had been in a car wreck. But something like this, you don't never get over it."

Chavis added: "The person who did this, they need to pay for what they done. Because she was standing there trying to catch the school bus. She was wanting to go get her an education. She wasn't bothering that person. He had no right snatching her and taking her away from me like he done."

Everyone involved in the investigation believes there is someone out there who knows or has a good idea of who the killer may be. Authorities believe convincing that person to step forward is the key to bringing the killer to justice.

Hoke County's new sheriff, Jim Davis, says the Locklear case is a top priority. In the next few days, his investigators will begin working on the case with SBI agents.

Reporter: John McDonnell


Michael Joyner

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