A body recovered from South River early Thursday morning has been identified only as that of a female, and the case, which began in Sampson County has now been turned over to the Hope Mills Police Department, along with agents with both the FBI and the SBI. Sampson law enforcement is now only assisting in the case.
Hope Mills Police Chief Joel Acciardo said in a telephone interview minutes ago that the body has not been identified and has been sent to the state Medical Examiner’s Office in Raleigh for a positive ID and cause of death determination.
“We’re not ruling anything out at this point,” Acciardo said when asked if the body could be that of 15-year-old Danielle Locklear, a Hope Mills teen missing since March 11.
In a prepared statement emailed to The Independent a short time ago, the chief noted that members of the investigative team “have been in touch with the parents of Danielle Locklear about this possible development.”
“We’re not going to speculate on this,” Acciardo said. “When the Police Department has received a positive identification from the Medical Examiner’s Office, we will make further notifications.”
Locklear, known by friends and family as “Dannie,” has been missing since March 11, when her grandfather reported to authorities that the teen left his home to go to a friend’s residence but never arrived.
Authorities, including the FBI and the SBI, have been involved in locating the 15-year-old for the past three weeks.
The female body was discovered late Wednesday afternoon by fisherman who spotted it in South River and called Sampson’s E911. Because the river divides Sampson and Cumberland, law enforcement authorities from both agencies responded to the initial call, as well as Hope Mills investigators.
Acciardo said in his statement that Sampson EMS responded to the call in the South River off Hollow Bridge Road, just outside of Autryville.
Law enforcement officers from multiple agencies, including the State Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, along with emergency crews, worked through the night and into the wee hours of Thursday morning at the scene.
“At this time, investigative teams are processing the scene for possible evidence, and the investigation is ongoing,” Acciardo noted in the statement.