Phenix City police officers testified today in the capital murder trial of Courtney Lockhart that they had to chase the Smiths Station, Ala, man after he fled from a traffic stop three days after the slaying of Auburn freshman Lauren Burk.
Darryl Williams, a traffic officer, was working a detail on U.S. 80 around 11 a.m. on March 7, 2008, when he clocked a silver Chrysler Sebring doing 75 mph in a 45 mph zone. He stopped the Sebring, stepped off his motorcycle and approached the car, asking the driver for his license and proof of insurance.
“The driver rustled around on his console for a few minutes,” Williams said. “It was Courtney Lockhart.”
Williams stepped back to his motorcycle to write two tickets – one for speeding and the other for not having proof of insurance. During that time, he was contacted by an investigator, who told him to keep Lockhart there because they had some questions for him, he testified.
Williams asked Lockhart to get out of his car. Lockhart resisted turning his car off, saying it wouldn't crank if he did, Williams said.
Instead, Lockhart sat on his back bumper waiting for two sergeants to arrive. Williams was taking off his motorcycle helmet when Lockhart ran to his driver's side door, hopped inside and sped off toward Summerville Road, the officer said.
Officer Dale Richards also was working a traffic detail in the area at the time. He spotted Lockhart drive off. Already on his motorcycle, he turned it on and started to chase him north on Summerville Road, he said.
“He was off the roadway a couple of times,” Richards said. “No concern for any traffic out on the roadway.”
Richards said the chase lasted from three to five miles and reached up to 100 mph. Once they'd reached near Pierce Road, Lockhart slowed down before stopping abruptly.
Richards, still in motion, quickly swerved to the vehicle's left to avoid hitting it. The driver's side door then opened, and Richards went over his handlebars.
Lockhart ran into nearby woods, and Richards couldn't follow because of his injuries. He pointed two sergeants and Williams toward the woods when they arrived moments later, he testified.
Sgt. Michael Vargo told jurors he entered the woods and drew his gun. When he reached the other sergeant, Lockhart was on the ground. Vargo bent over and handcuffed him. Officers then led him from the woods and back to the street, he said.
“He said he was sorry that nobody would help him when he got back from Iraq,” Williams testified.
March 4, 2008
Moments before her abduction and fatal shooting, Lauren Burk had an argument with her boyfriend as she left to meet a friend for a study session, witnesses testified Monday in Lockhart's case.
Burk spent the last few hours of her life with her boyfriend – Sean McQuade – leaving his apartment to meet high school friend Michael De St. Aubin after arguing with McQuade about an outfit she was wearing, witnesses said.
Burk's last day alive began with a 10:30 a.m. breakfast at Einstein Bros Bagels with her boyfriend. Afterward, they went to their 11 a.m. math class, McQuade testified.
Burk returned to her dormitory after class and McQuade went to a 12:30 p.m. class. He saw Burk again around 5 p.m. at his dormitory. McQuade watched TV and Burk napped for and hour or two, he said.
Burk and McQuade argued for about five or 10 minutes about how she looked in an outfit before she left.
He never saw her alive again.
Lockhart, 26, faces three counts of capital murder in the attempted rape, kidnapping and robbery of the Marietta, Ga., teen on March 4, 2008. Burk was found lying in the roadway of Ala. 147 between Lee Road 72 and U.S. 280 with a gunshot wound. She died at the East Alabama Medical Center and police later found her black 2001 Honda Civic burning in an Auburn parking lot. Police said Lockhart had a pistol when he forced Burk into her car, made her drive around and disrobe before shooting her.
The doctor who performed an autopsy on the body of Burk in the capital murder case of Lockhart testified today that the Auburn freshman would have been able to live for about two minutes after being shot.
Dr. John A. Daniels performed the autopsy on Burk, 18, on March 5, 2008 – the day after she was fatally shot. He testified today that she had several abrasions on her, also known as “road rash.”
He also told jurors that Burk had a gunshot wound on her upper left back.
“When this individual was shot, the back of her left shoulder was facing the firearm,” Daniels said. “She was shot in the back.”
Answering questions from District Attorney Nick Abbett, Daniels said that Burk had no broken bones or significant head injury, though the road rash was similar to second- or third-degree burns.
Daniels said the bullet entered Burk's left lung, traveled behind her heart, through the right lung and out her upper right shoulder.
“She would not necessarily die instantly,” he said.
District Attorney Nick Abbett said Friday that a naked Burk leaped from her moving car as Lockhart, in the driver's seat, shot her. Passing motorists testified they spotted her and tried to help.
Defense attorney Joel Collins said prosecutors must prove intent, and said Lockhart didn't intend to kill Burk.
The defense attorney also told jurors that they must understand his client's life and how his military service in Iraq changed him. Lockhart was arrested days later. Police said he confessed after his arrest.
If convicted, Lockhart could face the death penalty.
Abbett said he has about 50 witnesses to present and that should take through Wednesday. Defense attorneys said they should finish by Nov. 19.