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5-Year-Old’s Death Shakes Carolina

January 16, 1998

RAEFORD, N.C. (AP) _ In the nine days since 5-year-old Brittany Lynn Locklear was raped and killed, the quiet that once seemed so peaceful in this small town has become unnerving.

``It’s scary because you don’t know where he is at,″ Joann Mireles, a clerk at Smitty’s Cleaners, said of the killer.

Brittany was snatched Jan. 7 as she waited for the school bus by a man a witness said was driving a brown truck. Her body was found in a ditch the next day.

Since then, a task force of dozen or more local, state and federal investigators descended on this town of 3,500. Five telephones at a command post ring every minute or two, and authorities are building a list of suspects.

One call came from a woman who said investigators should check out a relative. She said ``blood is thick, but this is sick,″ Sheriff Wayne Byrd recalled.

Investigators won’t say how Brittany was killed.

Locals have begun wearing white ribbons in memory of the little girl, but people say they’re not likely to forget the crime.

``I cannot leave my children at the swing and walk a lap around the park,″ said LuEvelyn Locklear, who is not related to the victim. ``I don’t think anybody ever thought something like this could happen here.″

The killing is the main topic of conversation in Raeford, a place where the loudest sounds downtown are trucks hauling turkeys to the processing plant. The streets are sometimes littered with turkey feathers.

Around the corner, Melba Dodge waited for her next customer at her barber shop. ``I know we read about it all the time, but it’s different when it hits home,″ she said.

Officials are telling people to be wary of anyone compulsively cleaning their car, or someone showing extreme interest in the case. The sheriff hopes the killer will come to them.

``I’m extending a personal invitation to that person. If you want to turn yourself in, the sheriff will come get you and treat you with dignity,″ he said. ``A gang of people won’t come get you.″

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