There are a lot of aspects to this case that make it feel very personal and relatable to me, specifically the victim and the area. Brittany Locklear was born on October 14th, 1992, exactly eight months after I was born. If we had lived in the same area, maybe we would have been kindergarten classmates. On Websleuths, there was a post discussing Brittany which stated that she loved Barney, so maybe we would have even been best friends. If she had lived, maybe we would have gone to college together and taken the same classes. As weird as it sounds, it feels like I was robbed of the chance to make a friend and certainly her family was robbed of their future with Brittany. I also grew up in a coastal, rural area of NC two hours from where Brittany's life ended. Like Raeford, murder was pretty much unheard of in my hometown.
I first found this case because I was inspired by Payne Lindsey of the amazing podcast Up and Vanished. Payne said that he had found the case of Tara Grinstead by looking up cold cases on the Georgia Bureau of Investigation website. After hearing that, I went to the North Carolina SBI page where they have 27 cold cases listed in which the SBI is assisting local law enforcement with. On the third row of the page, the middle photo was a picture of a young child in a bright pink dress, typical of the early 90s. I had a similar dress that was a hand-me-down from my older cousin that I wore when my Mom took me to Sears to have portraits made when I was little and this photo reminded me of that.
Brittany Locklear was five years old on the morning of January 7th, 1998 living in Raeford, NC. A brief geography lesson for anyone who cares: Raeford is located in Hoke County, a rural area in the southern central part of the state just above South Carolina. Her mom, Connie Chavis, had woken Brittany up at 6:30 am and helped her get ready for school. They picked out her outfit, a green and white softball shirt, green denim overalls, green and pink tennis shoes, white socks, and a green hair tie. Before they went outside, Connie helped her put on her Little Red Riding Hood winter coat. As a child of the 90s, I can actually envision this outfit and have to ask, could she possibly be more adorable? At 7:00 am, Brittany and her mom went to wait for the school bus in the front yard. According to reports, Connie usually waited with Brittany, but on this morning Connie went inside to use the bathroom and left Brittany outside to wait for the school bus a few minutes after 7 am. When she looked out the window not even five minutes later, Brittany was gone and Connie assumed that she had gotten on the school bus until her neighbors frantically knocked on her door informing her that they had witnessed Brittany's abduction. Connie admittedly did not believe that Brittany had been kidnapped and had her father-in-law take her to Brittany's school, West Hoke Elementary. When Connie confirmed that Brittany was not at school, the police were contacted.
Neighbors were interviewed by the police and they reported the suspect was driving a brown pick-up truck. One neighbor told police, “I saw a truck come flying around the curve and down toward Brittany. It slowed down quick, and someone hopped out of the truck real fast. He bent over like he was picking something up, hopped back in the truck and drove out of there real fast.” A massive search began led by officers, firefighters, friends, family, community members, and even soldiers from Fort Bragg. Roadblocks were set up and the Hoke County Sheriff, Wayne Byrd, announced that anyone driving a brown truck would be stopped. Searches were conducted on the ground as well as from the air. If this case had occurred today, an Amber Alert would have been issued for Brittany, unfortunately, Amber Alerts were still incredibly new at this time and were not implemented in North Carolina until 2003. That night, search dogs discovered Brittany's backpack, a pair of overalls and two shoes about three miles from her home. The next day, Brittany's naked body was recovered in a drainage ditch about three miles from home on Ryan McBryde Road. Brittany had been raped and drowned before being discarded there.
The missing child investigation now turned into a homicide investigation. Connie Chavis and Brittany's estranged father, who lived in Pembroke, NC , were quickly ruled out as suspects. From what I can tell from other reports, Brittany's step-father and other family members who lived close by were also eliminated as suspects. According to retired SBI agent Jay Tilly, investigators received hundreds of calls each day and admit that they did not have the manpower or equipment to effectively handle all of the calls. Investigators wrote tips on paper forms and tried to keep an electronic spreadsheet of all of the tips. Keep in mind this was 1998 and Jay Tilly admits that some tips slipped through the cracks. Three months later, the FBI gave detectives working on Brittany's case a computer program designed to manage crime tips.
The following year, a new Sheriff, Jim Davis, came into office and publicly vowed to solve Brittany's case. According to Brittany's family, Sherriff Davis intimidated them into confessing to the crime, specifically Brittany's step-grandfather. Connie Chavis has stated that she believes Jim Davis was using her daughter's death as a political tool for re-election. Years pass and in 2001, Davis is elected out of office and Hubert Peterkin becomes sheriff, the third to handle Brittany's murder.
In 2003 investigators thought they had gotten a break in the case. A 12 year veteran of the Fort Bragg Fire Department had been arrested in a bank robbery and when he was arrested his locker at the station had been cleared out. Pictures of Brittany was discovered and the authorities were contacted. I've been unable to find what the content of the pictures are or how many pictures were found. Unconfirmed reports stated that he participated in the search for Brittany and lived within 15 miles of Brittany and her family. This individual's DNA was tested against the suspect's DNA and it did not match. A Google search of the individual indicates he died in 2018 so any knowledge he might have had of Brittany's murder died with him.
Fast forward to 2019 and Brittany's abduction, rape, and murder are still unsolved. Brittany was buried on her step-grandparents' property and 17,600 leads have been investigated, 92 SBI agents have worked an estimated 9,100 hours, and there is a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for the murder of Brittany. According to the SBI, police continue to seek the public's help for any information, however seemingly unimportant or already reported. If you have information about this case or any unsolved case in North Carolina, please contact the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, (800) 334-3000.