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AUBURN, Ala. (FOX 5) – Phenix City Police arrested Courtney Lockhart, 23, Friday during a traffic stop. He is charged with the murder of Auburn University student Lauren Burk.
He was arrested after high-speed chase and may be linked to armed robberies in Phenix City, Alabama and Columbus, Georgia.
Lockhart is charged with three counts of capital murder: One count of capital murder with robbery, one count of capital murder with kidnapping, and one count of capital murder with attempted rape.
Auburn Assistant Police Chief Tommy Dawson said that a suspect prosecuted for capital murder can face the death penalty.
Dawson also said there was no indication that Lockhart and Burk knew each other.
As investigators pursued leads in Burk’s death , her family asked for privacy.
The family issued a written statement Friday through family friend Kathy Singleton in Marietta, Georgia.
The statement expressed gratitude for what it called “all the kindness and prayers expressed during this tragedy.” The statement says the family asks for privacy to grieve for their loss and to celebrate Lauren’s life.
The family said a fund has been established to help find their daughter’s killer. It says anyone interested may contact any Wachovia Bank office and make a contribution to the “Lauren Burk Memorial Fund.”
In a press conference held Friday afternoon, Auburn Assistant Police Chief Thomas Dawson said that Lauren Burk was not sexually assaulted.
Dawson also said that a gas can was found in downtown Auburn and that it was examined for DNA evidence.
Investigators formed a 30 member task force as many Auburn students said they feared for their safety following Burk’s death.
Related Story: Auburn Campus on Alert After Freshman Shot, Killed
Students walked to classes on Auburn’s campus Thursday, waiting anxiously for word of an arrest in the case and police have pleaded for tips about Burk’s murder.
“We have several leads we are investigating and some strong leads,” said Assistant Chief Tommy Dawson of the Auburn Police Department.
Burk, an 18-year-old freshman at Auburn from Cobb County, was found suffering from a gunshot wound Tuesday night about five miles from campus. Burk’s car was later discovered engulfed in flames on campus. Burk later died from her injuries.
Within hours of the murder, university officials tried to calm fears among students. Investigators said it didn’t appear that other students were in danger, but some students didn’t agree.
“I am still worried and I think Auburn is doing a good job of trying to find out what’s going on, but it’s scary,’ said student Addy Felix.
Related Link: Auburn University Website
Auburn’s police chief said the department interviewed hundreds of people over the last two days, but no one stood out as a person of interest.
When asked if there could be any connection between Burk’s death and the death of a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student, Dawson responded, “I don’t have anything to believe that is related, but however, I have had my investigators get in touch with authorities there just to cover that avenue.”
Friends of Burk’s said they didn’t believe she knew her killer. “I’m definitely going to be looking over my shoulder for a couple of weeks or until I know the guy has been caught,” said friend Nathan Abbott.
PHOENIX — A man was sentenced Friday to 35 years in prison for kidnapping a 15-year-old girl, holding her in a dog kennel and forcing her into prostitution for 42 days.
Mathew Gray, one of the girl’s captors, also received lifetime probation.Gray pleaded guilty on Jan. 25 to two counts of sexual assault, two counts of child prostitution, one count of aggravated assault and one count of kidnapping.”This crime by defendant Gray takes brutality and depravity to a horrible new level,” said Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas.
September 2005, the El Mirage girl was abducted and initially forced to sleep in a dog kennel.
Later, she was forced to hide inside of a bed frame to avoid detection by police.”A 15-year-old shouldn’t have to go through something like that at all,” the victim told the court on Friday. “I’m emotionally unstable. I don’t trust anybody. I keep to myself. I barely talk to my family.”She was rescued on Nov. 8, 2005 by Phoenix Police who were following up on rumors that Gray was holding a girl against her will.During Friday’s sentencing, the victim addressed the court and explained how it was impossible to escape because she feared for her life and the lives of her family.”There was a 9 millimeter put in my mouth,” she said. “Told me if I left or acted dumb or anything I would be shot and so would my family.”Five other co-defendants will be sentenced in a few months. Jennelle Butler 22, and Ryan Rasmussen, 29 each pleaded guilty to sexual assault, as a dangerous offense, and to three counts of attempted sexual assault.Mark Grayned, 22, and Deairick Newsome, 22, each pleaded guilty to one count of sexual assault and to three counts of attempted sexual assault.Bianca Vierra, 19, pleaded guilty to one count of kidnapping and three counts of attempted sexual assault.Butler, Newsome and Vierra will be sentenced on June 9. Grayned and Rasmussen will be sentenced June 20.