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Hoke County Kindergartner Found Dead, Search...

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The crowd of volunteers and media gather for a press conference at the crime scene.
RAEFORD — After a grueling search through the muddyterrain of a Hoke County wooded area, authorities discovered the body of5-year-old Brittany Lynn Locklear Thursday afternoon.

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

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

Brittany's mother, Connie Chavis, said she had been watching herdaughter from inside her home as the child waited at a bus stop about200 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 oftheir own children. Keith Butler says his children will be watching forthe bus from inside their home.

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

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

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

Thursday morning, authorities conducted a road check near the abductionscene. Sgt. Patrick Brock said they were looking for anyone who may havewitnessed 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 weatherforced an end to the air search.

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

The girl waswaiting for the school bus to take her to West HokeElementary, where she was enrolled in kindergarten. Some other studentswitnessed the abduction. Johnson told WRAL's Mark Roberts what she saw.

Sheriff Byrd told WRAL that he believes that thekidnapping was not a domestic situation. However, Thursday after the bodywas discovered, Byrd stated in a press conference that his opinion haswavered.

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

Deputies say that several children witnessed the kidnapping from downthe street. The children gave authorities as much information as theycould, 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 aboutthe search until he had reason to feel otherwise.

The FBI has devised a profile of the killer, and it appearslikely that the suspect was watching Thursday search, if notactually involved in it.

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

Reporter:Mark RobertsandWisdom Martin

andBrianShrader

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