Brittany Locklear was only five-years-old when she was abducted and murdered while waiting for the school bus near her North Carolina home. Could the DNA sample they collected finally lead to answers in her unsolved murder more than 20 years later?
Sadly, the murder of Brittany Locklear is now been used locally as a talking point in local elections; leaving her mother frustrated that they still are left without answers.
“Little Brittany” was the name given to Brittany Locklear by her classmates and teachers at her West Hoke Elementary School, located less than 30 miles outside of Fayetteville, North Carolina. As the youngest and smallest kindergartner at just 5-years-old, Brittany had a big personality with an independent streak — and was always known to smile and give the best hugs.
As a member of the Lumbee Tribe, Brittany was enamored with the story of Pocahontas. According to the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina’s history and culture, the tribe makes up four neighboring counties: Robeson, Scotland, Cumberland, and Hoke — where Brittany’s family lived in Bowmore, North Carolina.
At home, Brittany had an 18-month-old half-sister, Brianna, and Brittany’s abduction has impacted Brianna’s life to this day; learning to shoot a gun at the age of 3, never waiting for a bus by herself, and always having a family member watch her as she got off the bus.
The day Brittany went missing
In the early morning hours of January 7, 1998, Brittany’s mother, Connie Locklear Chavis woke up at 6:30 AM to get Brittany ready for school. Together they picked out her outfit; a green and white softball t-shirt, green denim coveralls, green and pink tennis shoes, white socks, and a green hair tie. When it was time to step outside, Connie helped Brittany put on her Little Red Riding Hood winter coat, and just like they had done nearly 100 times before, the pair set out for the bus stop, which was located at the end of her driveway — less than 500 feet from the Locklear home.
By 7:00 AM, her mother made what seemed to be a harmless decision to step inside to use the bathroom before the bus came. But, when Connie returned, Brittany was gone. Initially thinking she had caught the bus, Connie rushed to West Hoke Elementary School just to double-check — only to hear from school officials that her daughter never arrived. The realization set in. Brittany had been kidnapped.
Connie immediately called the local police department to report Brittany as missing, and to her horror, she learned that neighbors had witnessed a pickup truck slam on its breaks at the edge of the driveway, followed by a man getting out, grabbing Brittany, and speeding away.
The news of Brittany going missing so early on a Wednesday morning gripped the town, and a large ground search quickly took place. By 9:00 AM that same morning, law enforcement discovered Brittany’s clothes on a dirt road approximately two miles away from her home.
Did Brittany know her abductor? Had she been targeted, or was it a random act? It was so early in the morning, could this have been pre-planned by someone who knew her schedule and saw an opportunity?
When Brittany was discovered
The following day, on January 8, 1998, around 2:00 PM, Brittany’s nude body was discovered in a roadside drainage ditch three miles from her home. Her autopsy showed that possible sexual assault had taken place, and that drowning in the drainage ditch was the cause of her death. The police took this evidence and questioned registered sex offenders within a 50-mile radius.
Early on, there were many tips reported — but none lead to breaks in her case. Then, in 2002, investigators received their first break in the case when a firefighter in Fort Bragg was arrested for a bank robbery. Investigators later found a photograph of Brittany inside of his locker at the fire station. To that end, the firefighter’s DNA was not a match to the biological evidence collected from the crime scene where Brittany was found. This individual was later cleared as a suspect, and the reported photograph was a newspaper clipping related to her case.
The next break in the case happened on January 23, 2015, when the Hoke County Sheriff's Office announced that they had enough DNA evidence to create a genetic profile of the individual who killed Brittany.
Has the DNA evidence been submitted to public databases? Could a forensic genetic profile be created to identify her murderer?
Where the case stands today
Brittany’s mother has shared her disdain for the way her daughter’s murder has been distorted by local officials and politicians to talk about public safety, reinvigorating a community’s desire for proper justice.
Currently, there is a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual responsible for the murder of Brittany Locklear. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Indigenous women and girls are murdered at rates 10x higher than all other ethnicities; with murder being the 3rd leading cause of death for Indigenous women and girls.
The National Institute of Justice Report reports that more than 4 out of 5 Indigenous Women have experienced violence, and more than half of Indigenous Women experience sexual violence in their lifetime. Sober statistics, but even harder to read when related to a five-year-old.
If you have any information about what happened to Brittany Locklear, please contact the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation at 1–800–334–3000.