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Last updated 12:30AM ET
March 2, 2021
Arrest Made in AU Murder
(APR - Alabama Public Radio ) - A suspect has been arrested and charged with capital murder in the abduction and shooting death of Auburn University student Lauren Burk, police announced Saturday.

Auburn Assistant Police Chief Thomas Dawson said Courtney Lockhart, 23, was arrested in Phenix City after a chase Friday and charged in the killing of the 18-year-old freshman from Marietta, Ga.

Dawson, at a news conference, said that Lockhart was initially pursued by Phenix City police as a suspect in robberies and later charged in Lee County with three capital counts accusing him of murder along with kidnapping, robbery and attempted rape.

Burk was found suffering from a gunshot wound on the side of a road about five miles from the campus Tuesday night. She died later a hospital. Her 2001 Honda Civic was found that night burning in a campus parking lot.

Investigators had been tightlipped but said there were several promising leads.

"It all came together late yesterday afternoon," said Dawson.

Dawson said investigators don't believe Lockhart, from rural Smiths in Russell County, had any connection to Auburn University or that he knew Burk before abducting her.

"I don't believe he targeted her that long, if he targeted her at all," said Dawson.

The assistant chief said investigators did have a photo of the suspect in Burk's case and that it was enhanced with the help of NASA. He said the photo matched Lockhart, but he declined to say how the photo was obtained or divulge other evidence linking Lockhart to the student's killing.

"We have the right individual in jail, I'm 100 percent sure of that," Dawson said.

While the charges include murder in the course of an attempted rape, Auburn police said Friday that forensic reports found that Burk had not been sexually assaulted.

Dawson said Lockhart tried to flee Phenix City police after being pulled over Friday.

"His car matched the description of a vehicle in a string of robberies," said Dawson. When an officer approached the car at the traffic stop, Lockhart drove off, Dawson said.

In a short pursuit, Lockhart's car broke down and he was captured by officers while trying to flee on foot, Dawson said.

Auburn investigators later connected him to the student's killing and capital murder charges were filed. Dawson said Lockhart may still be charged with robberies in Phenix City and Georgia.

Dawson said Lockhart was being held Saturday in the Russell County Jail on $250,000 bond.

The killing of Burk prompted an increased police presence on the east Alabama campus and the formation of a 30-member investigative task force, including FBI agents.

Auburn University will hold a campus-wide memorial service for Burk on Monday. Speakers will include Auburn President Jay Gogue and Alison Penuel, president of Burk's sorority, Delta Gamma.

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