Local News

Hoke County Kindergartner Found Dead, Search...

Posted January 8, 1998 12:00 a.m. EST

— After a grueling search through the muddy terrain of a Hoke County wooded area, authorities discovered the body of 5-year-old Brittany Lynn Locklear Thursday afternoon.

Sheriff Wayne Byrd said that the body was found in a drainage pipe, only miles away from the spot where the kindergartner was kidnapped Wednesday morning.

Brittany Lynn Locklear disappeared about 7 a.m. from her home just southwest of Raeford while waiting for the school bus. The Hoke County Sheriff's Department says that the girl was snatched by a man and put into a brown pickup truck with a rack of overhead lights.

Brittany's mother, Connie Chavis, said she had been watching her daughter from inside her home as the child waited at a bus stop about 200 yards away. Just after 7 a.m., Chavis said she went to the bathroom. When she returned, Brittany was gone.

The disappearance has other parents very concerned for the welfare of their own children. Keith Butler says his children will be watching for the bus from inside their home.

Crystal Johnson, the cousin of the missing child, plans to be extra careful herself. Johnson is afraid the same thing that happened to Brittany could happen to her.

Over 300 officers, firefighters, concerned friends and Fort Bragg soldiers turned out Thursday to look for Brittany. Sheriff Byrd says nearly 1,000 more people had contacted his office to volunteer to help. For that, he is appreciative.

Wednesday night, search dogs found Brittany's backpack, along with a pair of overalls and two shoes, in a wooded area on Ryan McBride Road, about three miles away from her home. Thursday, search crews discovered another piece of clothing, possibly belonging to the 3-foot-tall, 35-pound girl.

Thursday morning, authorities conducted a road check near the abduction scene. Sgt. Patrick Brock said they were looking for anyone who may have witnessed anything suspicious the morning Brittany was kidnapped.

Officers searched on land and from the air Wednesday. A Highway Patrol chopper, equipped with infrared technology, took to the air, However, windy weather forced an end to the air search.

When folks heard the tragic news, they responded with shock, sadness, and anger. Elizabeth Craven, a friend of Brittany's family, spoke with WRAL Thursday afternoon. She fought back tears as she talked about Brittany, calling her "the sweetest little child you'd ever want to know."

The girl was waiting for the school bus to take her to West Hoke Elementary, where she was enrolled in kindergarten. Some other students witnessed the abduction. Johnson told WRAL's Mark Roberts what she saw.

Sheriff Byrd told WRAL that he believes that the kidnapping was not a domestic situation. However, Thursday after the body was discovered, Byrd stated in a press conference that his opinion has wavered.

The child's father, who lives in Pembroke, has been interviewed and "checks out."

Deputies say that several children witnessed the kidnapping from down the street. The children gave authorities as much information as they could, saying that a white male jumped out of the truck, grabbed Brittany, took her back into the truck and sped off, heading away from them.

Earlier Thursday, Sheriff Byrd said he was trying to stay optimistic about the search until he had reason to feel otherwise.

The FBI has devised a profile of the killer, and it appears likely that the suspect was watching Thursday search, if not actually involved in it.

At this time, the Hoke County Sheriff's Department has more than 50 leads in the case. Authorities say any new tips would be appreciated. Anyone with information is asked to call the Sheriff's Department at 1-800-842-9111.

Reporter:Mark Robertsand Wisdom Martin

andBrian Shrader