By Alicia Cruz
11 years ago, in March 1998, Bradley Lockhart, the father of 5-year-old Shaniya Davis, experienced an unimaginable tragedy that left two people wounded and three dead including his wife of seven years, Vickie Sue Lockhart, then 28, his wife’s 19-year-old sister, Channel Coleman and another man, 24-year-old David Lee Epps.
Today, he is preparing to bury another family member -- his five-year-old daughter, Shaniya Davis. Davis was the recent focus of a massive search that griped a nation and ended with North Carolina officials finding her body along side a road in Sanford, North Carolina.
In all, five people were bound, gagged and shot that evening on March 3, 1998. The murders occurred at a duplex apartment on Graham Road in Fayetteville that was being rented by Joe Epps Staton the brother of David Epps.
The two injured men were Thorsten Malin, 21, and Tyrone Parker, 20. Malin rented the home along with Staton who was not home at the time of the murders. Police reports stated that two men broke into the home with the intent to rob Joe Epps who had received almost $20,000 in a settlement the year before.” They thought it was in the house,” said mother Sheila Epps.“The money was in the bank, but my son may have bragged about having it.”
Police reports stated that the killers walked into the home around 1 a.m. after one of them identified himself at the door. Each person in the home was bound, gagged and then shot several times.
The Sheriff Department was summoned to the home at about 1:24 a.m. after Malin freed himself and escaped through a bedroom window and went to the duplex apartment next door, where the landlord lived, and they called 911.
The killers left the home after the murders, tossing the murder weapon near a school bus stop on the corner of Mackenzie and Duncan Streets in the Spring Lake area of Fayetteville. Four men were arrested for the shotgun killings, but only two were convicted for the triple homicide, Vincent Lee Thomas and Litdel Burkhalter. Both were charged with First-Degree murder, First-Degree Kidnapping, Robbery with a Dangerous Weapon, Conspiracy to Commit Armed Robbery and Assault with a Dangerous Weapon with the intent to kill.
Both were sentenced to life in prison. Bradley and Vickie Sue Lockhart, had three children together.
Since the murder of his wife, Bradley Lockhart's children have mostly stayed with their grandparents in the Remington subdivision behind Seventy-First High School.
Thomas was a soldier stationed at Fort Bragg at the time of the murders.
He voluntarily went to the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department after eyewitnesses fingered him in a photo line-up. He was arrested at that time.
Since Thomas’ conviction, he has had 27 infractions while in prison, the latest having occurred in February 2009 according to the North Carolina Department of Corrections. He is currently incarcerated at the high security State Prison Scotland in Laurinburg, North Carolina.
Below are details of the infractions Thomas has committed while in prison:
02/20/2009 NO THREAT CONTRABAND
10/22/2008 NO THREAT CONTRABAND
01/28/2008 WEAPON POSSESSION
01/28/2008 DISOBEY ORDER
10/20/2006 UNAUTHORIZED TOBACCO USE 08/13/2005 SEXUAL ACT
07/25/2005 ASSAULT STAFF W/WEAPON
11/06/2004 SEXUAL ACT
02/13/2004 ATTEMPT CLASS C OFFENSE
01/09/2004 ATTEMPT CLASS A OFFENSE
01/09/2004 DISOBEY ORDER
08/21/2003 SUBSTANCE POSSESSION
08/21/2003 DISOBEY ORDER 08/21/2003
GAMBLING 12/21/2002 ATTEMPT CLASS A OFFENSE
10/19/2002 SEXUAL ACT
10/19/2002 DISOBEY ORDER
07/15/2002 DISOBEY ORDER
07/15/2002 UNAUTHORIZED LOCATION
06/14/2002 PROFANE LANGUAGE
05/19/2002 DISOBEY ORDER
05/19/2002 UNAUTHORIZED LOCATION
02/11/2001 PROFANE LANGUAGE
02/11/2001 DISOBEY ORDER
09/08/2000 SUBSTANCE POSSESSION
05/25/2000 THEFT OF PROPERTY
Burkhalter, who is now 33-years-old, was arrested the day after Thomas and led Deputies to the area where the shotgun had been disposed of. It wasn’t there. Burkhalter is currently incarcerated at the Lanesboro Correctional Institution in Polkton, North Carolina where he has racked up a total of nine prison infractions since his incarceration. Here are a list of those infractions:
L. Burkhalter, Jr.
06/26/2008 SELL/MISUSE MEDICATION
01/09/2006 SUBSTANCE POSSESSION
07/15/2003 ACTIVE RIOTER
07/15/2003 DISOBEY ORDER
04/14/2003 ASSAULT STAFF W/WEAPON
04/14/2003 SUBSTANCE POSSESSION
04/14/2003 DISOBEY ORDER
02/05/2003 SUBSTANCE POSSESSION
06/15/2002 UNAUTHORIZED LOCATION
**Quotes taken from WRAL archives and prisoner information taken from the N.C. Dept., of Correction web site.