Two North Carolina teenagers have been charged with murder in connection with the death of 15-year-old Danielle Locklear, a South View High School student who vanished last month.
Je'Michael Malloy, 17, Locklear’s former boyfriend, and his friend, 18-year-old Dominic Lock, have been charged with one count each of second-degree murder.
Lock was initially charged with conspiracy for allegedly helping Malloy dispose of Locklear’s body. Police dropped the conspiracy charge Wednesday and charged Lock with second-degree murder.
Locklear was reported missing on March 11 when she left her grandfather’s home in the Fox Meadow subdivision of Hope Mills and never returned.
Investigators said Locklear met Malloy that night and the former couple got into an argument.
“Their conversation turned violent, and Malloy said he choked Locklear to death and stuffed a sock in her mouth,” Hope Mills Police Chief Joel Acciardo said at a news conference Tuesday night.
An off-duty Cumberland County detective discovered a body April 3. The body was floating in the South River on the county line between Sampson and Cumberland counties, not far from Malloy’s home.
“Cinderblocks had been tied to the victim’s body,” Acciardo added.
The Cumberland County Medical Examiner’s Office has not positively identified the remains as Locklear’s. However, police say based on Malloy's confession and the clothing Locklear was last seen wearing, they believe it is her.
Tips and the close proximity of the body to suspect’s residence led authorities to Malloy, police said.
“All I can say is that this is a tragic event for the family of the victim, and for the families of the suspects,” Acciardo said. “Everybody involved is young. Everybody involved has their whole life ahead of them.”
Malloy is being held on $100,000 bond. Lock was released from jail Thursday after posting bond, his attorney, Bernard Condlin, told HLN.
"It’s a very unfortunate incident,” Malloy’s attorney D.W. Bray told HLN Thursday. “You have two young people, a beautiful young lady, and by all accounts an upstanding young man; both with a bright future. And we caution no one to rush to judgment as to Mr. Malloy and let the court work it out. And let it be noted that he was charged with second-degree murder, not first-degree murder. Ultimately this case will come down to a question of intent. My client’s family wants Ms. Locklear’s family to know that they are in their prayers,” Bray said.
Both suspects made a brief court appearance Wednesday, during which they were informed of the charges against them.
Locklear’s family left the courthouse in tears, CNN affiliate WGHP reported.
Malloy participated in community-wide searches for the girl, and now her family says they feel betrayed, the affiliate reported.
“And to find out that the perpetrator, or the person who took her life allegedly is her own boyfriend, is a lot to take,” said Locklear’s aunt, Chena Simmons, told WGHP. “It’s a lot, we can’t deal with it.”
Both teens faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
"This is obviously a horrible event not only for Danielle Locklear’s friends and family but for the families of the two defendants,” Condlin added. “I'm very confident that with our elected DA Billy West, our judiciary here in Cumberland County, and defense counsel that justice will be served."