Sunday, July 31, 2022

The Disappearance and Murder of Danielle Locklear

 

Danielle Locklear (15) was a young, bright girl with her whole future ahead of her when her life was tragically taken on March 11th, 2014. Danielle is originally from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, but she was living in Hope Mills, North Carolina at the time of her death. She lived with her grandparents and was very close with her aunt, who also lived in Hope Mills.

Danielle moved to Hope Mills during June of 2013. After finishing her 2012-2013 school year in Myrtle Beach, she went to Hope Mills to spend the summer with her grandparents. While there, Danielle attended summer camp and also attended several church events with her family members. She made several new friends in Hope Mills and also began dating a 17-year-old named Je'Michael Malloy. 

Danielle and Je'Michael met through church, and her family members believed he was a kind and respectful young man. Danielle was reportedly very smitten with him. According to her aunt, Danielle would light up every time Je'Michael was around. When the summer was coming to an end, Danielle asked her mother if she could stay in Hope Mills instead of returning to Myrtle Beach. She had become quite attached to all of her new friends and her new boyfriend, so she wanted to make Hope Mills her permanent home. 

Danielle's family members decided to let her stay in Hope Mills, knowing that she was surrounded by several loving family members in the area. She was enrolled in Cape Fear High School, where she participated in ROTC and got straight A's on her report card. However, by Christmastime in 2013, Danielle and her boyfriend Je'Michael began going through a rough patch. They reportedly broke up around this time, but were back together a week later. This pattern of breaking up and getting back together continued throughout the next few months. 

In early March 2014, Danielle's family members noticed that she seemed down, and not like her normal energetic self. They attributed her seemingly sad mood to her relationship troubles with Je'Michael, which on the surface seemed to be fairly typical teenage troubles. Danielle still spent time with her friends, and her loved ones thought she would eventually move on from this high school relationship. Her family members could have never predicted that she would not return after leaving her home on the evening of March 11th, 2014. 

That evening, Danielle told her step-grandfather that her friend Alexis had asked her to drop off a textbook at her house. Alexis lived nearby, so they expected Danielle to be back shortly. Unfortunately, though, Danielle never returned home. Her worried family members reported her missing the following morning. 

Weeks later, on April 2nd, 2014, an off-duty police officer was on a bridge near the South River when he noticed something unusual in the water. The officer called 911, and investigators were sent to the scene. The unusual something that the officer noticed ended up being something far more tragic: it was the body of a young girl. Shortly thereafter, the body was identified as that of Danielle Locklear. She had been found with large cinderblocks tied around her waist. A sock was found stuff in her mouth. It was clear that the young girl had been brutally murdered. 

The Hope Mills community had been rocked by Danielle's disappearance. Danielle's family members clung to hope that she would return home safely. Those hopes were ripped away from them after Danielle's body was found. At that point, the missing persons investigation was shifted into a homicide case. 

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After police found Danielle's body, they began reviewing evidence they had gathered up until that point. The information they obtained in the beginning of Danielle's missing persons' investigation ultimately held the answers about who killed Danielle.

The creek.

When Danielle was first reported missing, investigators learned about a hangout spot for many local teens at a creek in Hope Mills. According to several people from that area, teens would often go to that spot while skipping class. In fact, police would soon learn that Danielle had gone to the creek on the day of her disappearance. 

As previously mentioned, Danielle told her step-grandfather that she was going to her friend Alexis' house on the evening of her disappearance. Police interviewed Alexis, who told them that Danielle did not come over to her house that evening - but they had seen each other earlier that day at the creek. Alexis provided police with pictures from their outing at the creek, which confirmed that they had been there during the daytime.

Danielle at the creek on March 11th, 2014. (source)

Reports state that many adults in the area were unaware that the creek was a hangout spot for teens. Danielle's aunt Chena Simmons said that she had heard rumors about the creek, and she decided to scope it out for herself after Danielle vanished. While there, Chena noticed that the the word "Help" scratched in the dirt on a creek side trail. There did not appear to be anything else suspicious in the immediate area, so one could easily assume that the writing was just from kids messing around. However, as Chena exited the trail, she found something else concerning: one of Danielle's socks. According to Chena, the sock appeared as if it had been "rolled off her foot."

This discovery was clearly suspicious, but it appears that Danielle made it safely home after her outing at the creek that day. Danielle was at home and accounted for on the evening of March 11th until 9:45 PM, when she said she was going on a quick trip to Alexis' house. Police were able to confirm that Danielle did not, in fact, go to Alexis' house that night or meet up with Alexis at all - so they began to question: who did she meet up with?

The ex-boyfriend.

In addition to learning about the creek, investigators also learned that Danielle had been going through a tough breakup at the time of her disappearance. Investigators inevitably wanted to speak with Je'Michael Malloy - as they felt there was a possibility that Danielle had met up with him instead of Alexis that evening. 

Je'Michael and Danielle. (source)

When police questioned Je'Michael, he said that he had not spoken to Danielle for days before her disappearance. He explained that Danielle was not taking their breakup well, but he wanted to move on. Je'Michael said that he had grown tired of Danielle's constant calls and texts, so he had blocked her phone number. He denied meeting up with Danielle on the evening of her disappearance - he said he was at home with his friend Dominic Lock. Dominic, then 18, supported Je'Michael's alibi.

Still, police wanted to investigate further, so they asked Je'Michael if they could search his phone. Je'Michael complied and willingly provided his phone for forensic analysis. His phone records showed some previous texts from Danielle stating that she was pregnant with his child. Je'Michael's responses to those texts were reportedly angry in nature, and he said that he did not believe that Danielle was pregnant. Other texts between Je'Michael and Danielle implied that he was angry with her and did not want to be around her anymore. 

The messages between Je'Michael and Danielle clearly revealed that their relationship was not in a good place at the time of her disappearance - but that was ultimately the only information the cell phone records revealed. Je'Michael's cell phone records did not otherwise tie him to Danielle's disappearance in any way. In fact, on the night of Danielle's disappearance, Je'Michael's cell phone records indicate that he was at home - as he told police. It appeared that he had spent the evening texting other girls. 

As the investigation into Danielle's disappearance continued, Je'Michael joined in on the search efforts. He assisted with volunteer searches and passed out flyers. Je'Michael also joined a Facebook group dedicated to the search for Danielle. He appeared to be concerned along with the rest of the community. 

Investigators did not have any other physical evidence to tie Je'Michael to Danielle's disappearance at that time - so they began to investigate elsewhere.

The search for other clues.

Police searched surveillance footage from the evening of Danielle's disappearance and reviewed Danielle's cell phone pings. It was confirmed that Danielle had left her residence around 9:45 PM. Her final cell phone ping occurred nearly an hour later, around 10:40 PM. Investigators went to the area near the tower from that ping and searched for the phone, but were unable to find it at that time.

Police also began to look for other people Danielle might have interacted with that day. They already knew she had been to the creek with Alexis that day - but they were not aware of the other teens who might have also been there as well. The picture of Danielle at the creek shows her wearing glasses. On the reflection of the glasses, other people are seen. One of those teens was later identified as another one of Danielle's friends named Caroline. 

Caroline told police that Danielle was still upset that day over her breakup with Je'Michael. Investigators found no other information to indicate that Danielle was talking to another boy who she might have met up with at the creek. 

Local investigators realized that they needed more assistance in their search for Danielle, so eventually the FBI got involved. Unfortunately, their efforts did not locate Danielle. It was not until April 2nd - 23 days after her disappearance - that Danielle was spotted by happenstance.

Finding Danielle.

As noted previously, Danielle's body was spotted by an off-duty police officer in the South River. Her body was found with cinderblocks tied around her waist with nylon rope. A sock of was stuffed in Danielle's mouth. The sock was a match to the other sock of Danielle's that was found at the creek. An autopsy confirmed that Danielle died from asphyxiation, with the sock possibly being a contributing factor. The autopsy also confirmed that, while she had told Je'Michael she was pregnant with his child, Danielle was not actually pregnant at the time of her death.

Investigators at the site where Danielle's body was discovered. (source)

Danielle's body was found approximately 20 miles away from her home. However, she was found less than one mile away from the home of Je'Michael Malloy. Upon this discovery, investigators knew they had to revisit Je'Michael. At that point, he was no longer a person of interest but a suspect. 

Search warrants executed.

Investigators did not believe it was a coincidence that Danielle's body was found less than a mile away from the home of her ex-boyfriend. As such, police obtained a warrant to search the Malloy home. In the garage, police found both cinderblocks and nylon rope that were identical to the ones found tied around Danielle's body. Police also finally found Danielle's cell phone on a highway median near the home. It appeared that it had been tossed out the window. The phone contained a threatening voicemail that Je'Michael had left Danielle, in which he said "If you come around me I will kill you." 

Police then asked Je'Michael to come to the station for further questioning. Detectives were all but certain that he was responsible for Danielle's death. They hoped that this was the moment that he was crack.


Detectives had no such luck. Je'Michael continued to deny any involvement in Danielle's disappearance and murder. Eventually, they had to let him go home. Investigators also questioned Je'Michael's friend Dominic Long, but he refused to speak with police.

A confession.

Days later, Je'Michael finally came clean. On April 9th, 2014, investigators received a call stating that Je'Michael wanted to confess. Je'Michael returned to the station, where he revealed what happened on the evening of Danielle's disappearance.

Je'Michael told police that on the evening of March 11th, he and Dominic went to Danielle's house. He got Danielle's attention by throwing his wallet at her window. Minutes later, Danielle told her step-grandfather she was going to Alexis' house when in reality, she was meeting up with Je'Michael and Dominic. The three of them then drove to the creek.

Once there, Danielle told Je'Michael yet again that she was pregnant. An argument ensued, and Je'Michael demanded that she take a pregnancy test in front of him. She refused. Je'Michael then said that he told Danielle if she was pregnant, he would be there for the child, but he would not be in a relationship with Danielle. By his account, this statement "caused Danielle to flip out and hit him." 

Je'Michael said this caused him to snap. He explained that he grabbed Danielle and began choking her - but at some point he blacked out. Je'Michael said that when he came to, Danielle was not breathing. He then asked Dominic, who was standing approximately 70 yards away, to help him dispose of Danielle's body. The two of them dragged Danielle to the car and placed her in the trunk. As they were driving towards Je'Michael's home, Danielle began making noise. Je'Michael said that Dominic stuffed her sock in her mouth to make the noise stop. Once they got to Je'Michael's house, they tied the cinderblocks to Danielle and threw her body in the river. 

Dominic confirmed to police that he helped Je'Michael dispose of Danielle's body. He said he was in shock when Je'Michael told him that he had killed her. Dominic explained that Je'Michael said they'd both go to jail for murder if he did not help get rid of the body. 

Police questioned why Je'Michael's cell phone pings placed him at home on the evening of the murder. He admitted that he had used an app to make it appear that he was at his house. 

Both Je'Michael and Dominic were subsequently charged with second degree murder in relation to the death of Danielle Locklear.

Je'Michael Malloy (left) Dominic Lock (right)

Plea deals.

Danielle's family members were initially unhappy with the second-degree murder charge against Je'Michael. They wanted him to be charged with first-degree murder, as they believed he had planned to murder Danielle. Several meetings with the family, attorneys, and other officials eventually led to a plea agreement. Je'Michael's second degree murder charge would remain, while Dominic's charges would be switched to accessory after the fact of first degree murder.

Both parties pleaded guilty. During the proceedings, the District Attorney stated that Je'Michael was solely responsible for Danielle's death by asphyxiation. The evidence had revealed that Dominic was, in fact, responsible for moving Danielle's body, but he did not participate in the murder. 

The sentencings.

Dominic Lock was sentenced to 6 to 8 years in prison. Je'Michael Malloy was sentenced to 25 to 31 years. At Je'Michael's sentencing, he apologized for his actions. "
I know there’s nothing I can do or I can say to bring her back. I do want to apologize for the actions I’ve made. I know sorry doesn’t cut it, but I do I want to say I’m really sorry."

Tributes to Danielle.


Danielle's loved ones have continued to pay tribute to her since her untimely death. In 2017, her high school honored her at their graduation. Several online tributes are still made for Danielle today. Her family continues to honor her memory. 

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